The Effect of Public Spending on Consumption: Reconciling Theory and Evidence
Series/Report no.Cahier de recherche #2008-11
Recent empirical evidence from vector autoregressions (VARs) suggests that public spending shocks increase (crowd in) private consumption. Standard general equilibrium models predict the opposite. We show that a standard real business cycle (RBC) model in which public spending is chosen optimally can rationalize the crowding-in effect documented in the VAR literature. When such a model is used as a data-generating process, a VAR estimated using the artificial data yields a positive consumption response to an increase in public spending, consistent with the empirical findings. This result holds regardless of whether private and public purchases are complements or substitutes.