Cyclical ratcheting in government spending: Evidence from the OECD

Zvi Hercowitz*, Michel Strawczynski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This paper studies the role of business cycles in the phenomenon of increasing government-spending/GDP ratios in the OECD countries. An empirical framework that includes both long-run and cyclical considerations in the determination of government spending is applied to panel data covering 1975-1998. The main finding is that the prolonged rise in the spending/GDP ratio is partially explained by cyclical upward ratcheting due to asymmetric fiscal behavior: the ratio increases during recessions and is only partially reduced in expansions. The long-run ratcheting effect is estimated, as approximately 2% of GDP. Also analyzed are the cyclical changes in the composition of government spending (government consumption, transfers and subsidies, and capital expenditure), as well as a possible link between cyclical ratcheting and government weakness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-361
Number of pages9
JournalReview of Economics and Statistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004


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