WASHINGTON – By virtually every major measure of economic achievement, the economy has performed better during recent Democratic administrations than during Republican ones, according to a short report released Thursday by Joint Economic Committee (JEC) Democrats.
A review of economic growth since World War II shows that gross domestic product (GDP) has grown at an average annual rate of 3.9 percent under Democratic administrations and by 2.5 percent under Republican administrations. Private-sector job growth has averaged 2.5 percent per year under Democrats versus 1.0 percent under Republicans.
“The data are clear: The economy performs better under Democratic presidents,” said JEC Ranking Democrat Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). “These findings discredit the claims of Republican presidential candidates who would have voters believe that they are better at running the economy.”
The JEC report updates and expands upon recent work by Princeton economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson, which found that the economy has performed better under recent Democratic presidents “almost regardless of how one measures performance.” Although the reasons are neither fully understood nor directly attributable to policy choices, Blinder and Watson write that the “large and significant” performance gap between the economy under Democrats and Republicans is predominantly due to factors that “might be considered blends of good policy and good luck.”
The JEC report found, on average:
Real (inflation-adjusted) GDP has grown about 1.6 times faster under Democrats than under Republicans.
- Private-sector jobs have grown nearly 2.5 times faster under Democrats than under Republicans. This gap is even larger than the gap when including government jobs.
- The starting point does not matter—GDP and jobs have grown faster under Democrats regardless of whether the analysis begins with Presidents Truman, Kennedy or Reagan.
“The superiority of economic performance under Democrats rather than Republicans is nearly ubiquitous; it holds almost regardless of how you define success,” Blinder and Watson write in a paper that will soon be published in the American Economic Review. “By many measures, the performance gap is startlingly large—so large, in fact, that it strains credulity,” they continued.
Blinder and Watson caution against a strictly ideological interpretation, since the economy is affected by many factors that are at least partially out of a president’s control, such as oil prices and the rate of productivity growth. President Clinton, for example, benefitted tremendously from the information technology boom of the 1990s.
Nevertheless, the historical pattern has continued under the Obama Administration. Real GDP growth has averaged 2.0 percent per year under President Obama, versus 1.6 percent per year under President George W. Bush. Private-sector jobs have expanded at an average annual rate of 1.2 percent under President Obama, while the economy actually lost private-sector jobs under President Bush.
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