Automatic Stabilizer

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DEFINITION of 'Automatic Stabilizer'

Economic policies and programs that are designed to offset fluctuations in a nation's economic activity without intervention by the government or policymakers. The best-known automatic stabilizers are corporate and personal taxes, and transfer systems such as unemployment insurance and welfare. Automatic stabilizers are so called because they act to stabilize economic cycles and are automatically triggered without explicit government intervention.

BREAKING DOWN 'Automatic Stabilizer'

Automatic stabilizers act in a manner that is against the prevailing economic trend. For example, in a progressive taxation structure, the share of taxes in national income falls when the economy is booming and rises when the economy is in a slump. This has the effect of cushioning the economy from changes in the business cycle. Similarly, total net transfer payments such as unemployment insurance decline when the economy is in an expansionary phase, and rise when the economy is mired in recession.

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