A summary of Assistant Professor of Economics Gillian Brunet’s dissertation, “Understanding the Effects of Fiscal Policy: Measurement, Mechanisms, and Lessons from History,” was published in the June issue of the Journal of Economic History. She wrote the paper while pursuing her PhD in economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
The global recession of 2008 and the resulting fiscal stimulus packages in many countries have reignited academic interest in government spending multipliers. Despite a growing theoretical and empirical literature, there is little consensus on the impact of government spending on macroeconomic aggregates. Gillian Brunet’s dissertation makes significant contributions to this contested literature by focusing on the largest fiscal shock in modern American history—WWII. Besides providing novel estimates of the fiscal multiplier during the war period, her work also seeks to understand how the economic and institutional contexts affect this important statistic.
The dissertation also won the Economic History Association’s 2018 Allan Nevins Prize Competition.
Brunet’s research interests lie at the intersection of economic history, macroeconomics, and public economics. Her work uses microeconomic data to study macroeconomic questions, often in historical contexts. She is particularly interested in understanding the United States economy during and after World War II.
This fall, she is teaching Economics of Alexander Hamilton’s America and Macroeconomic Analysis.
Gillian Brunet, assistant professor of economics, was awarded the Allan Nevins Prize in American Economic History by the Economic History Association Sept. 8 in Montreal, Canada.
The prize is awarded annually on behalf of Columbia University Press for the best dissertation in U.S. or Canadian economic history completed during the previous year.
Brunet, who joined the faculty at Wesleyan this fall, completed her dissertation at the University of California at Berkeley. Her dissertation focused on the state-level effects of World War II spending in the United States.
Titled, Understanding the Effects of Fiscal Policy: Measurement, Mechanisms, and Lessons from History, Brunet explored the government’s ability to stimulate economic activity through expansionary fiscal policy by asking “How much economic activity results when the government increases spending by one dollar, and how does the economic and institutional context affect the answer to that question?”
Brunet’s dissertation uses a variety of empirical techniques to explore aspects of this question using historical data on U.S. military spending. Chapter one uses state-level variation in war production spending to measure the fiscal multiplier during World War II, and examine how features of the wartime economy influenced the size of the fiscal multiplier. In chapter two, Brunet focuses on how the measurement of government spending influences the estimated size of the multiplier and she introduces a new time series measure of aggregate defense spending. In chapter three, she returns to World War II, but this time examines the effects of wartime military spending on the postwar economy, establishing causal evidence for its role in driving the immediate postwar boom.
This fall, Brunet is teaching Economics of Alexander Hamilton’s America and Macroeconomic Analysis.