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Endowments, fiscal federalism and the cost of capital for states: evidence from Brazil, 1891–1930

  • Martinez Fritscher, André C.
  • Musacchio, Aldo

There is a large literature that aims to explain what determines country risk (defined as the difference between the yield of a sovereign's bonds and the risk free rate). In this article, we contribute to the discussion by arguing that an important explanatory factor is the impact that commodities have on the capacity to pay. We use a newly created database with state-level fiscal and risk premium data (between 1891 and 1930) to show that Brazilian states with natural endowments that allowed them to export commodities that were in high demand (e.g. rubber and coffee) ended up having higher revenues per capita and lower cost of capital. We also explain that the variation in revenues per capita was both a product of the variation in natural endowments (i.e. the fact that states cannot produce any commodity they want) and a commodity boom that had asymmetric effects among states. These two effects generated variation in revenues per capita at the state level thanks to the extreme form of fiscal decentralisation that the Brazilian government adopted in the constitution of 1891, which gave states the sole right to tax exports. We also run instrumental variable estimates using indices of export prices for each state. These estimates confirm our findings that states with commodities that had higher price increases had lower risk premia.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Financial History Review.

Volume (Year): 17 (2010)
Issue (Month): 01 (April)
Pages: 13-50

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Handle: RePEc:cup:fihrev:v:17:y:2010:i:01:p:13-50_00
Contact details of provider: Postal: Cambridge University Press, UPH, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 8BS UK
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  1. Hugh Rockoff & Michael D. Bordo, 1996. "The Gold Standard as a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval"," Departmental Working Papers 199528, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  2. Yingyi Qian & Barry R. Weingast, 1997. "Federalism as a Commitment to Preserving Market Incentives," Working Papers 97042, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  3. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521518895 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 2002. "Tropics, Germs, and Crops: How Endowments Influence Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 9106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
  6. Joana Naritomi & Rodrigo R. Soares & Juliano J. Assunção, 2007. "Rent Seeking and the Unveiling of 'De Facto' Institutions: Development and Colonial Heritage within Brazil," NBER Working Papers 13545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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