Skip to main content

Permanent Primary Deficits, Idiosyncratic Long-Run Risk, and Growth

Working Paper 794 | Published November 16, 2022

Download PDF


Erzo G.J. Luttmer Visiting Scholar
Amol Amol Research Analyst
Permanent Primary Deficits, Idiosyncratic Long-Run Risk, and Growth


We consider an economy with perpetual youth and inelastic labor supply that grows endogenously. Consumers are subject to idiosyncratic capital accumulation risk and markets are incomplete. The government purchases consumption goods, makes transfers in the form of baby bonds, and it can use consumption and wealth taxes. The wealth distribution is given in closed form. When the intertemporal elasticity of substitution ɛ is equal to 1, the government can run a permanent primary deficit, up to a finite upper bound, if the coefficient of relative risk aversion is high enough and the factor share of labor is not too close to 1. This causes the risk-free rate _r_ to be below the growth rate _g_ of the economy. But the government can implement Pareto improvements when _r - g_ does not exceed zero by enough. If ɛ ≠ 1, then there may not be an upper bound on the permanent primary deficits of the government. If ɛ Є (0,1), this happens when the economy is relatively unproductive, and then taking deficits to be very large makes all consumers worse off. If ɛ Є (1,∞), very large deficits are possible if the economy is sufficiently productive, and then they imply unbounded Pareto improvements.