ERROR
Main Error Mesage Here
More detailed message would go here to provide context for the user and how to proceed
ERROR
Main Error Mesage Here
More detailed message would go here to provide context for the user and how to proceed

City Journal

search
Close Nav

The Truth About Growth

eye on the news

The Truth About Growth

Statistics refute Hillary Clinton’s claim that the economy does better under Democrats. May 30, 2016
Economy, finance, and budgets
Politics and law

A perennial, or at least quadrennial, staple of Democratic Party argumentation is the claim that economic-growth rates under Democratic presidents outpace those under Republican presidents. Recently, Hillary Clinton resurrected this familiar mantra. But a closer look at the numbers tells a different story.

Every president’s economic record benefits (or suffers) from the economic conditions he inherits from his predecessor. Moreover, an outgoing administration’s final fiscal year doesn’t end until October 1 of the successor’s first calendar year. So, rather than computing the average economic growth rate under a given president or party across calendar years of presidential terms, a more accurate measure would impose a one- or two-year time lag—preferably two years, because of the inevitable interval between fiscal-year policies and their economic effects.

The two-year lagged period would begin three months after the end of a new president’s first full fiscal year. For example, George W. Bush left office in January 2009; Barack Obama’s first fiscal year ran from October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010; and the first full calendar year following the latter president’s economic-policy implementation period was 2011.

Using this more realistic framework, a picture emerges that contradicts Democratic claims of superiority. In fact, rather than better GDP growth during Democratic presidencies, we find the opposite—a slight advantage (3.2 percent real growth vs. 3.13 percent) for Republicans, based on data from 1947 through 2015. This difference isn’t statistically significant, but it does undermine long-running claims that Democratic presidents deliver stronger economic growth.

Don’t believe me? You can look it up, as Casey Stengel once said. Try the website of the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Or consult the table below, which provides the raw growth numbers going back to the early Truman administration. It shows that, even with the two-year lag, President Obama’s growth rate is anemic, just over 2 percent, which lags the averages for presidents of both parties since 1947. Perhaps Republicans should stop referring to a weak recovery and start describing our current economic conditions as long-term stagnation.

Table. Annual Real U.S. GDP Growth and Presidential Party Affiliation

Year Growth Party Party-lagged Year Growth Party Party-lagged
2015 2.4 D D        
2014 2.4 D D 1980 -0.2 D D
2013 2.2 D D 1979 3.2 D D
2012 2.3 D D 1978 5.6 D R
2011 1.6 D D 1977 4.6 D R
2010 2.5 D R 1976 5.4 R R
2009 -2.8 D R 1975 -0.2 R R
2008 -0.3 R R 1974 -0.5 R R
2007 1.8 R R 1973 5.6 R R
2006 2.7 R R 1972 5.2 R R
2005 3.3 R R 1971 3.3 R R
2004 3.8 R R 1970 0.2 R D
2003 2.8 R R 1969 3.1 R D
2002 1.8 R D 1968 4.9 D D
2001 1.0 R D 1967 2.7 D D
2000 4.1 D D 1966 6.6 D D
1999 4.7 D D 1965 6.5 D D
1998 4.4 D D 1964 5.8 D D
1997 4.5 D D 1963 4.4 D D
1996 3.8 D D 1962 6.1 D R
1995 2.7 D D 1961 2.6 D R
1994 4.0 D R 1960 2.6 R R
1993 2.7 D R 1959 6.9 R R
1992 3.6 R R 1958 -0.7 R R
1991 -0.1 R R 1957 2.1 R R
1990 1.9 R R 1956 2.1 R R
1989 3.7 R R 1955 7.1 R R
1988 4.2 R R 1954 -0.6 R D
1987 3.5 R R 1953 4.7 R D
1986 3.5 R R 1952 4.1 D D
1985 4.2 R R 1951 8.1 D D
1984 7.3 R R 1950 8.7 D D
1983 4.6 R R 1949 -0.5 D D
1982 -1.9 R D 1948 4.1 D D
1981 2.6 R D 1947 -1.1 D D
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

​Photo by ginosphotos/iStock

Contact

Send a question or comment using the form below. This message may be routed through support staff.

Saved!
Close