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Partisan Conflict

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  • Marina Azzimonti

    (stonybrook university)

Abstract

American politics have become extremely polarized in recent decades. This deep political divide has caused significant government dysfunction. Political divisions make the timing, size, and composition of government policy less predictable. According to existing theories, an increase in the degree of economic policy uncertainty results in a decline in economic activity. This occurs because businesses and households may be induced to delay decisions that involve high reversibility costs. In addition, disagreement between policymakers may result in stalemate that adversely aeffects the optimal implementation of policy reforms, and may result in excessive debt accumulation. Testing these theories has been challenging given the low frequency at which existing measures have been computed. In this paper, I provide a novel high-frequency indicator of partisan conflict. The index, constructed between 1891 and 2013, uses a search-based approach that measures the frequency of newspaper articles reporting lawmakers' disagreement about policy. I show that the trend in partisan conflict is related to polarization and income inequality. Its short-run fluctuations are highly correlated with elections, but unrelated to recessions. The lower-than-average values observed during wars suggest a "rally around the flag" effect. I use the index to study the effect of an increase in partisan conflict, equivalent to the one observed since the Great Recession, on business cycles. Using a simple VAR, I find that an innovation to partisan conflict increases government deficits and significantly discourages investment, output, and employment. Moreover, these declines are persistent, which may help explain the slow recovery observed since the 2007 recession ended.

Suggested Citation

  • Marina Azzimonti, 2015. "Partisan Conflict," 2015 Meeting Papers 471, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed015:471
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    File URL: https://economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2015/paper_471.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Torsten Persson & Lars E. O. Svensson, 1989. "Why a Stubborn Conservative would Run a Deficit: Policy with Time-Inconsistent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(2), pages 325-345.
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:13:y:1919:i:02:p:213-228_01 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Alesina, Alberto & Drazen, Allan, 1991. "Why are Stabilizations Delayed," Foerder Institute for Economic Research Working Papers 275509, Tel-Aviv University > Foerder Institute for Economic Research.
    4. Morten O. Ravn & Harald Uhlig, 2002. "On adjusting the Hodrick-Prescott filter for the frequency of observations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 371-375.
    5. R?diger Bachmann & Steffen Elstner & Eric R. Sims, 2013. "Uncertainty and Economic Activity: Evidence from Business Survey Data," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 217-249, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Azzimonti, Marina, 2018. "Partisan conflict and private investment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 114-131.
    2. Bouoiyour, Jamal & Selmi, Refk & Wohar, Mark E., 2018. "Measuring the response of gold prices to uncertainty: An analysis beyond the mean," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 105-116.
    3. Rangan Gupta & Chi Keung Marco Lau & Stephen M. Miller & Mark E. Wohar, 2017. "U.S. Fiscal Policy and Asset Prices: The Role of Partisan Conflict," Working papers 2017-10, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    4. Elliott Ash & Massimo Morelli & Richard Van Weelden, 2015. "Elections and Divisiveness: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 21422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Goodness C. Aye & Matthew W. Clance & Rangan Gupta, 2019. "The effectiveness of monetary and fiscal policy shocks on U.S. inequality: the role of uncertainty," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 53(1), pages 283-295, January.
    6. Scott R. Baker & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis, 2016. "Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(4), pages 1593-1636.
    7. Elif C. Arbatli & Steven J. Davis & Arata Ito & Naoko Miake & Ikuo Saito, 2017. "Policy Uncertainty In Japan," NBER Working Papers 23411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Christian Pierdzioch & Rangan Gupta, 2017. "Uncertainty and Forecasts of U.S. Recessions," Working Papers 201732, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
    9. Bouton, Laurent & Lizzeri, Alessandro & Persico, Nicola, 2016. "The Political Economy of Debt and Entitlements," CEPR Discussion Papers 11459, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Mikhed, Vyacheslav & Vogan, Michael, 2017. "How Data Breaches Affect Consumer Credit," Working Papers 17-6, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, revised 16 Nov 2017.
    11. Mikhed, Vyacheslav & Vogan, Michael, 2015. "Out of sight, out of mind: consumer reaction to news on data breaches and identity theft," Working Papers 15-42, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    12. Hankins, William & Cheng, Chak & Chiu, Jeremy & Stone, Anna-Leigh, 2016. "Does partisan conflict impact the cash holdings of firms? A sign restrictions approach," Bank of England working papers 638, Bank of England.
    13. Marina Azzimonti & Marcos Fernandes, 2018. "Social Media Networks, Fake News, and Polarization," NBER Working Papers 24462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Cheng, Chak Hung Jack & Hankins, William B. & Chiu, Ching-Wai (Jeremy), 2016. "Does US partisan conflict matter for the Euro area?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 64-67.
    15. Mehmet Balcilar & Seyi Saint Akadiri & Rangan Gupta & Stephen M. Miller, 2017. "Partisan Conflict and Income Distribution in the United States: A Nonparametric Causality-in-Quantiles Approach," Working Papers 201741, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.

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