Debt Ceiling and Government Shutdown

Download Debt Ceiling and Government Shutdown Data

Here we have collected data on the number of mentions of "government shutdown" or "debt ceiling" in newspapers across the United States since January 1985 until September 2013. The series are collected in the data file above, with each series comprising the number of articles containing the given terms divided by the total number of news articles that month.

We find only sporatic mentions of these terms in most years, but find a large spike in talk of a government shutdown in 1995, when a shutdown did occur. Similarly, we have seen a dramatic increase in mentions of government shutdown in the last 2 months. Discussions of the debt ceiling peaked in the summer of 2011 but have also seen large increases in the past months with the latest protracted debt ceiling debates in Congress.

Despite the evident surge in mentions of the debt ceiling and of goverment shutdown, our news-based Economic Policy Uncertainty index does not seem to greatly underestimate levels of EPU in recent months, despite not including debt ceiling or shutdown terms. Ratios of our baseline EPU series to a version including "debt ceiling" or "goverment shutdown" terms are also included in the data file above.

These series are based on newspaper archives from Access World New's NewsBank service. The NewsBank Access World News database contains the archives of thousands of newspapers and other news sources from across the globe. While NewsBank has a wide range of news sources, from newspapers to magazines to newswire services, we conduct our analysis only utilizing newspaper sources.

We restrict our attention to newspapers in the United States, of which NewsBank covers well over 1000. These newspapers range from large national papers like USA Today to small local newspapers across the country. The data spans from 1985 to 2013.

Debt Ceiling and Government Shutdown Article Frequency since 1985

This chart, from Janurary 1985 through September 2013, reports monthly frequency counts of articles containing "debt ceiling" or "government shutdown", expressed as a fraction of all articles in U.S. newspapers covered by Access World News Newsbank Service (1000+ newspapers).

A value of 0.01 represents a month in which 1% of all newspaper articles mention the term in question.