Revisiting the guns-butter tradeoff: a wavelet analysis of the US and Britain

Yu Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study applies continuous wavelet analysis to examine defense-education and defense-healthcare relations in the US and Britain. It discovers four empirical patterns that have not been shown in the existing literature. First, the defense-welfare tradeoff rarely occurs at cycles less than 6 years and hence is not a short-run phenomenon. Second, very noticeable bilateral tradeoffs between education and defense can be detected. The effect, however, is more pronounced in the direction from education to defense. Third, the defense-welfare tradeoff is much less likely to occur in defense-healthcare relations than defense-education relations. Fourth, a structural change in the defense-healthcare relationship occurred during the 1960s, after which the defense-healthcare connection became primarily complementary. Together, the established patterns question the assumption that the defense sector has a dominant power in budget allocation. They also raise new theoretical and empirical questions demanding future research efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-534
Number of pages16
JournalPolicy Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Guns-butter tradeoff
  • defense policy
  • government budget
  • time series
  • welfare policy


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