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Creating Jobs Via the 2009 Recovery Act: State Medicaid Grants Compared to Broadly-Directed Spending

Researchers have used cross-state differences to assess the jobs impact of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Recovery Act). Existing studies find that the Act's broadly- directed spending (i.e. excluding tax cuts) increased employment, at a cost-per-job of roughly three to five times that of typical employment compensation in the U.S. Other research finds that a particular component of the Act ─emergency Medicaid grants to states ─created jobs at a cost of 12% to 20% that of broadly-directed spending. This paper shows that these dif- ferences across the components' impacts can be explained by omitted variables in the existing work on the emergency Medicaid grants. Adjusting for the omissions, the jobs effect of the Act's Medicaid grants becomes substantially weaker. The omissions are: (i) not controlling the degree of (non-Recovery Act) federal dependency, (ii) not duly controlling for pre-Act housing and labor market conditions, and (iii) not conditioning on Recovery Act funding beyond that from the Act's Medicaid grants. Adjusting for any one of these omissions, by itself, results in a substantial increase in the cost of job creation and/or no statistically significant jobs effect.

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