Ruhr Economic Papers

Ruhr Economic Papers #406

It’s the Debt-Growth Nexus Again – Evidence from a Long Panel of Regional-Government Liabilities

by Timo Mitze and Florian Matz

RWI, 03/2013, 20 S./p., 8 Euro, ISBN 978-3-86788-461-7 DOI: 10.4419/86788461



In this paper, we study the long- and short-run relationship between regional public debt and economic performance for a sample of German federal states over the period of four decades (1970-2010). By choosing a sample of regional entities with comparable institutional settings, we complement the large literature on the debt-growth nexus based on heterogeneous cross-country samples. We estimate a dynamic error correction model that accounts for slope heterogeneity among cross-sections and the presence of unobserved common factors. While – in line with the Keynesian view – our findings hint at a non-linear inverted U-shape relationship between changes in the public debt intensity and economic growth in the short-run, we get strong statistical evidence for linear negative relationship between regional public depth and per capita GDP in the long-run. By means of a simple though experiment, we show that these negative long-run effects are not negligible for the size of interregional differences in per capita GDP levels and are in line with most international evidence on the detrimental growth effects of high public debt levels. Finally, these results also underline the need for effective fiscal rules at the federal state level in Germany.

JEL-Classification: C23, R11, R50, E62

Keywords: Government debt; economic growth; German states; panel data; unobserved common factors