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Do Countries Default In "Bad Times"?

  • Michael Tomz
  • Mark L. J. Wright

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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Paper provided by Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University in its series CAMA Working Papers with number 2007-23.

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Length: 52 pages
Date of creation: May 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:een:camaaa:2007-23
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  1. Greasley, David & Oxley, Les, 2000. "Measuring New Zealand's GDP 1865-1933: A Cointegration-Based Approach," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 46(3), pages 351-68, September.
  2. Yousef, Tarik M, 2002. "Egypt's Growth Performance under Economic Liberalism: A Reassessment with New GDP Estimates, 1886-1945," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(4), pages 561-79, December.
  3. Vivian Z. Yue, 2005. "Sovereign Default and Debt Renegotiation," 2005 Meeting Papers 138, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Mark Aguiar & Gita Gopinath, 2004. "Defaultable debt, interest rates, and the current account," Working Papers 04-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  5. David K. Backus & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1992. "International Evidence on the Historical Properties of Business Cycles," Working Papers 92-5, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  6. Harding, Don & Pagan, Adrian, 2002. "Dissecting the cycle: a methodological investigation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 365-381, March.
  7. 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.
  8. Schulze, Max-Stephan, 2000. "Patterns of growth and stagnation in the late nineteenth century Habsburg economy," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(03), pages 311-340, December.
  9. Rohan Pitchford & Mark Wright, 2006. "Sovereign debt, default and renegotiation," 2006 Meeting Papers 331, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Marianne Baxter & Robert G. King, 1999. "Measuring Business Cycles: Approximate Band-Pass Filters For Economic Time Series," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 575-593, November.
  11. World Bank, 2005. "World Development Indicators 2005," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 12425, September.
  12. Cooley, T.F. & Ohanian, L.E., 1989. "The Cyclical Behavior Of Prices," RCER Working Papers 188, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  13. World Bank, 2006. "World Development Indicators 2006," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 8151, September.
  14. Cristina Arellano, 2008. "Default Risk and Income Fluctuations in Emerging Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 690-712, June.
  15. 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.
  16. Don Harding & Adrian Pagan, 1999. "Dissecting the Cycle," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp1999n13, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  17. Ugo Panizza & Eduardo Levy Yeyati, 2006. "The Elusive Costs of Sovereign Defaults," Research Department Publications 4485, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  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.
  19. repec:wbk:wbpubs:12426 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Mark L. J. Wright & Rohan Pitchford, 2008. "Restructuring the Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism," 2008 Meeting Papers 147, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  21. 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.
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