The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
The present paper takes a fresh theoretical and empirical look into the relationship between Wagner’s law and economic development. It introduces human capital into a classic two-sector model of unbalanced growth. It shows that, as an economy develops, changes in the relative returns to human capital and unskilled labor, as a result of changes to their relative scarcities, could have a significant impact on the size of the government sector, depending in part also on the difference in relative factor intensities between outputs of the private and government sectors. This conjecture is broadly supported by empirical evidence based on a cross-section analysis of a large sample of developed and developing countries.