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Decomposing the Government Transfer Multiplier

We estimate the local, spillover and aggregate causal effects of government transfers on personal income. We identify exogenous changes in federal transfers to residents at the state-level using legislated social security cost-of-living adjustments between 1952 and 1974. Each effect is measured as a multiplier: the change in personal income in response to a one unit change in transfers. The local multiplier, i.e., the effect of own-state transfers on own-state income holding fixed other state's income, at a four-quarter horizon is approximately 3.4. The cross-state spillover multiplier is about -0.7, but not statistically different from zero. The aggregate multiplier, i.e., the sum of its local and spillover components, equals 2.7. More generally, our paper provides a template for conducting inference that decomposes an aggregate effect into its local and spillover components.

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