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Revisiting the narrative approach of estimating tax multipliers

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  • Hebous, Shafik
  • Zimmermann, Tom

Abstract

A number of recent studies regress a "narratively" identified measure of a macroeconomic shock directly on an outcome variable. In this note, we argue that this approach can be viewed as the reduced-form regression of an instrumental variable approach in which the narrative time series is used as an instrument for an endogenous series of interest. This motivates evaluating the validity of narrative measures through the lens of a randomized experiment. We apply our framework to four recently constructed narrative measures of tax shocks by Romer and Romer (2010), Cloyne (2013), and Mertens and Ravn (2012). All of them turn out to be weak instruments for observable measures of taxes. After correcting for weak instruments, we find that using any of the considered narrative tax measures as an instrument for cyclically adjusted tax revenues yields tax multiplier estimates that are indistinguishable from zero. We conclude that the literature currently understates the uncertainty associated with quantifying the tax multiplier.

Suggested Citation

  • Hebous, Shafik & Zimmermann, Tom, 2015. "Revisiting the narrative approach of estimating tax multipliers," SAFE Working Paper Series 93, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:safewp:93
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    1. Kathryn M. E. Dominguez & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2013. "Forecasting the Recovery from the Great Recession: Is This Time Different?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 147-152, May.
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    3. Leeper, Eric M., 1997. "Narrative and VAR approaches to monetary policy: Common identification problems," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 641-657, December.
    4. Shafik Hebous, 2011. "The Effects Of Discretionary Fiscal Policy On Macroeconomic Aggregates: A Reappraisal," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(4), pages 674-707, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Winter, Christoph & Kraus, Beatrice, 2016. "Do Tax Changes Affect Credit Markets and Financial Frictions? Evidence from Credit Spreads," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145636, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Narrative Approach; Fiscal Stabilization; Tax Multiplier; Weak Instruments;

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General
    • E69 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Other
    • C54 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Quantitative Policy Modeling

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