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Grupo de Estudos Monetários e Financeiros

Estudo do GEMF n.º 03/2016


Dimensions of the welfare state and economic performance: a comparative analysis

João A. S. Andrade, Adelaide P. S. Duarte and Marta C. N. Simões
Faculty of Economics and GEMF, University of Coimbra, Portugal


In recent years the desirability of an extensive Welfare State has been increasingly questioned on the grounds that economies with less social intervention by the Government are more competitive and productive. But even if countries do not increase public expenditure, changing the composition of the Welfare State might foster growth by rescaling their intervention in domains that are productivity enhancing. Education and health are the most striking examples given their role as sources of human capital, a fundamental ingredient in many growth models. It is thus important to empirically assess the impact of public expenditures on education and health on educational attainment and health status indicators, and real income. We do this for three groups of countries: a group of high income OECD economies, the EU before the enlargement and the EU enlargement group. We identitfy long-run relationships across the main variables using the DOLS estimator corrected for cross-sectional dependence and we estimate short-run relationships that include an ECM term from the associated long-run equation by applying Fixed-Effects and Pooled Mean Group estimators for the period 1960-2012. The results of the estimation of the long-run equilibrium relationships point to a positive, direct or indirect, influence of (public) education expenditures and (public, private or total) health expenditures on output for the three groups of countries. Causality relationships exhibit mixed results concerning policy variables, within and between country groups, with the results for the high-income OECD (non EU) group supporting the use of social policy variables to foster economic growth.

Keywords: education, health, public expenditures, economic growth, OECD

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