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

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  • Martinez Fritscher, André C.
  • Musacchio, Aldo

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Martinez Fritscher, André C. & Musacchio, Aldo, 2010. "Endowments, fiscal federalism and the cost of capital for states: evidence from Brazil, 1891–1930," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(01), pages 13-50, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:fihrev:v:17:y:2010:i:01:p:13-50_00
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bordo, Michael D. & Rockoff, Hugh, 1996. "The Gold Standard as a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(02), pages 389-428, June.
    2. Yingyi Qian & Barry R. Weingast, 1997. "Federalism as a Commitment to Reserving Market Incentives," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 83-92, Fall.
    3. Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 2003. "Tropics, germs, and crops: how endowments influence economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 3-39, January.
    4. 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.
    5. Nathan Sussman & Yishay Yafeh, 1998. "Institutions, Reforms, and Country Risk: Lessons from Japanese Government Debt in the Meiji Period," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-20, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    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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    JEL classification:

    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H74 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Borrowing
    • N26 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • N46 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • N96 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Latin America; Caribbean

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