Presidents, Parties, and the Business Cycle, 1949-2009


Michael Comiskey is associate professor of political science at the Penn State Fayette Campus in Uniontown, PA. His research has focused on welfare policy in the advanced democracies, the effects of Reaganomics, and presidential Supreme Court nominations.

Lawrence C. Marsh is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Notre Dame. He has published widely and has served as guest editor for the Journal of Econometrics.


Scattered works by political scientists since the 1970s have reported that Democratic presidents have compiled stronger economic records than their Republican counterparts: economic growth has been higher, unemployment lower, and inequality has fallen during Democratic administrations while the opposite outcomes have occurred under Republican presidents. Recently, however, Campbell has vigorously challenged these findings. This article reexamines the data for 1949-2009 using new methods and measures, and confirms the earlier findings for unemployment and real gross domestic product (GDP).