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Do countries default in “bad times”?

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  • Michael Tomz
  • Mark L. J. Wright

Abstract

This paper uses a new dataset to study the relationship between economic output and sovereign default for the period 1820-2004. We find a negative but surprisingly weak relationship between output and default. Throughout history, countries have indeed defaulted during bad times (when output was relatively low), but they have also maintained debt service in the face of severe adverse shocks, and they have defaulted when domestic economic conditions were favorable. We show that this constitutes a puzzle for standard theories, which predict a much tighter negative relationship as default provides partial insurance against declines in output.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2007-17.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Publication status: Published in Journal of the European Economic Association, v. 5, no.2-3, pp. 352-60 (shorter version).
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2007-17

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Keywords: Default (Finance) ; Debt;

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  1. Claude Giorno & Pete Richardson & Deborah Roseveare & Paul van den Noord, 1995. "Estimating Potential Output, Output Gaps and Structural Budget Balances," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 152, OECD Publishing.
  2. Yeyati, Eduardo Levy & Panizza, Ugo, 2011. "The elusive costs of sovereign defaults," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 95-105, January.
  3. David K. Backus & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1991. "International evidence on the historical properties of business cycles," Staff Report 145, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Yue, Vivian Z., 2010. "Sovereign default and debt renegotiation," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 176-187, March.
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  7. Rohan Pitchford & Mark Wright, 2006. "Sovereign debt, default and renegotiation," 2006 Meeting Papers 331, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Cooley, T.F. & Ohanian, L.E., 1989. "The Cyclical Behavior Of Prices," RCER Working Papers 188, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
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  10. Cristina Arellano, 2008. "Default Risk and Income Fluctuations in Emerging Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 690-712, June.
  11. Mark Aguiar & Gita Gopinath, 2004. "Defaultable debt, interest rates, and the current account," Working Papers 04-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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  13. Marianne Baxter & Robert G. King, 1995. "Measuring Business Cycles Approximate Band-Pass Filters for Economic Time Series," NBER Working Papers 5022, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Max-Stephan Schulze, 2000. "Patterns of growth and stagnation in the late nineteenth century Habsburg economy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 4370, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  18. Agustín Maravall & Ana del Río, 2001. "Time Aggregation and the Hodrick-Prescott Filter," Banco de Espa�a Working Papers 0108, Banco de Espa�a.
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  20. Rankin, Keith, 1992. "New Zealand's Gross National Product: 1859-1939," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 38(1), pages 49-69, March.
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  22. Mark L. J. Wright & Rohan Pitchford, 2008. "Restructuring the Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism," 2008 Meeting Papers 147, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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