I have found data that seems to be contradicting: statista gives public spending at country level between 40% and 60%, but eurostat gives an aggregate figure of about 20%, as shown in the following pie chart: pie chart Which is it? Is there a difference in the definition of public spending and general government expenditure? Edit: I am comparing different years, 2017 and 2019, but the percentage change of each category is relatively stable over the period, giving the same order of magnitude. percentage change


The data provided by Statista are estimates of public expenditure to GDP ratio for year 2017 while the Eurostat data are for year 2019. Consequently I do not see any a priori reason why the two series would be expected to match. They are not necessarily contradictory as they are for different years.

Furthermore, I can't see the information on Statista on the methodology/sources as it is hidden behind a paywall. It is quite possible that Statista's definition of public spending does not match the Eurostat definition of government expenditure. The definition provided by Eurostat is:

Final consumption expenditure by general government includes the value of goods and services purchased or produced by general government and directly supplied to private households for consumption purposes.

Where general government is defined thusly:

of institutional units which are non-market producers whose output is intended for individual and collective consumption, and are financed by compulsory payments made by units belonging to other sectors, and institutional units principally engaged in the redistribution of national income and wealth.

If you happen to know the Statista definition you can compare them.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer. I edited my question to show why comparing different years is not too much of a problem. Mainly, I am trying to understand why people say that in EU, government spending is half of GDP, where the eurostat data shows twice less. $\endgroup$ – user288227 Oct 13 '20 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @user288227 As the definition I provided in my answer says the government expenditure is defined as a consumption expenditure. If you look at total expenditure - which includes non consumption expenditure the EU government spending is about 50% of GDP. See here. $\endgroup$ – 1muflon1 Oct 13 '20 at 10:49
  • $\begingroup$ @user288227 also just recommendation for future if you are interested in something like this then please say so outright in your question next time because the original question wanted to just compare the two different statistics. If you would say that you dont understand why some sources cite that gov. spending is about half of GDP I could have directed you to the right aggregate right away $\endgroup$ – 1muflon1 Oct 13 '20 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the advice. So when in politics, people say that government spending is half of GDP, implying that government spends too much, it is in fact misleading, since this government spending includes redistribution that doesn’t change the GDP, and investment in infrastructure that benefits the private sector too. Is that right? $\endgroup$ – user288227 Oct 13 '20 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ @user288227 I would not say it is misleading. In fact spending including redistribution is usually the number used to indicate the relative 'size' of state even in academic literature. Depending on what the context of debate is both numbers can be correct. Also note it is impossible to say that government spending is too much from either number. 1. in order to say that government spending is too much we have to have measure of what optimal gov. spending is. Why should 50% or even 99% be too much a priori. It might very well be that in order to ensure optimal provision of public goods... $\endgroup$ – 1muflon1 Oct 13 '20 at 11:44

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