Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Felix K. Rioja

Second Advisor

Neven T. Valev

Third Advisor

Jenny E. Ligthart

Fourth Advisor

Shiferaw Gurmu

Fifth Advisor

Jorge Martinez-Vazquez

Abstract

This dissertation comprises two essays. The first essay explores how the size of government, as measured by the level of spending, affects growth. Theoretical models suggest a nonlinear relationship; however, testing this hypothesis empirically in cross-country studies is complicated by the endogeneity of government spending and the accurate identification of turning points. This paper examines the nonlinear hypothesis by incorporating threshold analysis in a cross-country growth regression. Using a broad panel of countries over the period 1971-2005, the results show evidence in favor of a nonlinear effect, but not of the form predicted by theory. When total government spending is low, there is no statistically significant effect on economic growth. However, after passing a certain threshold government spending exhibits a negative effect on growth.

The second essay develops a dynamic macroeconomic model to explore how variations in the composition and financing of government expenditures affect economic growth in the long-run. The model is used to analyze how public investment spending funded by taxes or borrowing affects long-term output growth. The model is calibrated to reflect economic conditions in the seven largest Latin American economies during the period 1990 to 2008. We find that, where tax rates are not already high, funding public investment by raising taxes may increase long-run growth. If existing tax rates are high, then public investment is only growth-enhancing if funded by restructuring the composition of public spending. Interestingly, using debt to finance new public investment compromises growth, regardless of the initial fiscal condition.

Included in

Economics Commons

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