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Systemic Crises and Growth

  • Romain Rancière

    (International Monetary Fund Research Department and Paris School of Economics)

  • Aaron Tornell

    (University of California Los Angeles and National Bureau of Economic Research)

  • Frank Westermann

    (University of Osnabrueck and CESifo)

Countries that have experienced occasional financial crises have, on average, grown faster than countries with stable financial conditions. Because financial crises are realizations of downside risk, we measure their incidence by the skewness of credit growth. Unlike variance, negative skewness isolates the impact of the large, infrequent, and abrupt credit busts associated with crises. We find a robust negative link between skewness and GDP growth in a large sample of countries over 1960-2000. This suggests a positive effect of systemic risk on growth. To explain this finding, we present a model in which contract enforceability problems generate borrowing constraints and impede growth. In financially liberalized economies with moderate contract enforceability, systemic risk taking is encouraged and increases investment. This leads to higher mean growth but also to greater incidence of crises. In the data, the link between skewness and growth is indeed strongest in such economies. (c) 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 123 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 359-406

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:359-406
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