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Working Paper

Wagner's Hypothesis: A Local Perspective

Wagner’s hypothesis of an expanding public sector as an economy develops is tested using pooled time-series cross-sectional data for U.S. states from 1964 to 1986. Comparing government size among fiscal jurisdictions within a single nation reduces the problems of data comparability and of controlling for cultural and institutional differences that plague the more common international tests of this theory. Our results are inconsistent with Wagner’s hypothesis, yielding a negative relationship between public-sector size and output. However, some empirical support is found in the protective services and public welfare components of government activity.

Suggested Citation

Eberts, Randall, and Timothy J. Gronberg. 1992. “Wagner's Hypothesis: A Local Perspective.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 92-02.