Public Choice

, Volume 168, Issue 3–4, pp 313–341 | Cite as

Seeing the forest through the trees: a meta-analysis of political budget cycles

  • Andrew Q. PhilipsEmail author


Despite a vast number of articles, the political budget cycle literature contains many conflicting theories and empirical results. I conduct the first ever meta-analysis of this literature in order to establish whether a link between elections and government budgets exists. Using data on 1198 estimates across 88 studies published between 2000 and 2015, I find evidence of a statistically significant—yet substantively small—increase in government expenditures and public debt around elections, and reductions in revenues and fiscal balance. Using meta-regression analysis combined with Bayesian model averaging, I find support for some of the context-conditional theories in the literature. Although the findings of political budget cycles are robust to publication bias as well as some of the methodological- and study-specific choices authors are forced to make, they also shed light on how certain decisions may affect a study’s findings. This has implications for current and future research on political budget cycles.


Political budget cycle Meta-analysis Fiscal policy 



I wish to thank Lorena Barberia, Nathan Favero, Kendall Funk, David Switzer, Guy D. Whitten, the editors, and an anonymous reviewer for their comments and suggestions. Any errors and omissions remain my own.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1077 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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