NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

By How Much Does GDP Rise if the Government Buys More Output?

Robert E. Hall

NBER Working Paper No. 15496
Issued in November 2009
NBER Program(s):   EFG

During World War II and the Korean War, real GDP grew by about half the amount of the increase in government purchases. With allowance for other factors holding back GDP growth during those wars, the multiplier linking government purchases to GDP may be in the range of 0.7 to 1.0, a range generally supported by research based on vector autoregressions that control for other determinants, but higher values are not ruled out. New Keynesian macro models have multipliers in that range as well. On the other hand, neoclassical models have a much lower multiplier, because they predict that consumption falls when purchases rise. The key features of a model that delivers a higher multiplier are (1) the decline in the markup ratio of price over cost that occurs in those models when output rises, and (2) the elastic response of employment to an increase in demand. These features alone deliver a fairly high multiplier and they are complementary to another feature associated with Keynes, the linkage of consumption to current income. Multipliers are higher—perhaps around 1 .7—when the nominal interest rate is at its lower bound of zero, as it was during 2009.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15496

Published: Robert E. Hall, 2009. "By How Much Does GDP Rise If the Government Buys More Output?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 183-249. citation courtesy of

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