Does Government Spending Crowd Out R&D Investment? Evidence from Government-Dependent Firms and Their Peers

Phong T. H. Ngo, and Jared Stanfield

We provide evidence that managerial incentives to manipulate real activities can influence the effectiveness of fiscal policy. Increases in federal spending lead government-dependent firms to expand R&D investment whereas industry-peer firms contract. The net result is a reduction in industry-level R&D investment. We find evidence of a novel mechanism for the crowding out of peer-firm investment: peer-firm managers respond to falling relative performance by cutting R&D to manage current earnings upward. We show that these differential responses manifest in firm value. These findings are robust to endogeneity and selection concerns as well as a battery of alternative explanations.