Government Size and Growth: A Survey and Interpretation

Reprint No. 2011:36

Author(s): Andreas Bergh and Magnus HenreksonYear: 2011 Title: Journal of Economic Surveys Volume (No.): 25 (5) Pages: 872–897
Online article (restrictions may apply)

The literature on the relationship between the size of government and economic growth is full of seemingly contradictory findings. This conflict is largely explained by variations in definitions and the countries studied. An alternative approach – of limiting the focus to studies of the relationship in rich countries, measuring government size as total taxes or total expenditure relative to GDP and relying on panel data estimations with variation over time – reveals a more consistent picture. The most recent studies find a significant negative correlation: an increase in government size by 10 percentage points is associated with a 0.5% to 1% lower annual growth rate. We discuss efforts to make sense of this correlation, and note several pitfalls involved in giving it a causal interpretation. Against this background, we discuss two explanations of why several countries with high taxes seem able to enjoy above average growth. One hypothesis is that countries with higher social trust levels are able to develop larger government sectors without harming the economy. Another explanation is that countries with large governments compensate for high taxes and spending by implementing market-friendly policies in other areas. Both explanations are supported by ongoing research.

Bergh, Andreas and Magnus Henrekson (2011), "Government Size and Growth: A Survey and Interpretation". Journal of Economic Surveys 25(5), 872–897.

Andreas Bergh


Mob: 070 779 0734

Magnus Henrekson


Ph: +46 (0)8 665 4502

Sick of Inequality?

An Introduction to the Relationship between Inequality and Health

Sick of Inequality.jpg

In this book Andreas Bergh, Therese Nilsson, IFN and Lund University, and Daniel Waldenström, IFN and Paris School of Economics, France, review the latest research on the relationship between inequality and health. What does inequality mean for our health? Does increasing income inequality affect outcomes such as obesity, life expectancy and subjective well-being?


Seminars organized by IFN


To present ongoing research informal brown-bag seminars are held on Mondays at 11:30 am. This is an opportunity for IFN researchers to test ideas and results.

Academically oriented seminars are most of the time held on Wednesdays at 10 am. At these events researchers from IFN and other institutions present their research.

In addition, IFN organizes seminars open to the public. Topics for these are derived from the IFN research.

Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Grevgatan 34 - 2 fl, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden | Phone: +46-(0)8-665 45 00 | info@ifn.se