NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Are Government Spending Multipliers Greater During Periods of Slack? Evidence from 20th Century Historical Data

Michael T. Owyang, Valerie A. Ramey, Sarah Zubairy

NBER Working Paper No. 18769
Issued in February 2013
NBER Program(s):   EFG

A key question that has arisen during recent debates is whether government spending multipliers are larger during times when resources are idle. This paper seeks to shed light on this question by analyzing new quarterly historical data covering multiple large wars and depressions in the U.S. and Canada. Using an extension of Ramey’s (2011) military news series and Jordà’s (2005) method for estimating impulse responses, we find no evidence that multipliers are greater during periods of high unemployment in the U.S. In every case, the estimated multipliers are below unity. We do find some evidence of higher multipliers during periods of slack in Canada, with some multipliers above unity.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18769

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