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The Elusive Costs of Sovereign Defaults

  • Ugo Panizza
  • Eduardo Levy Yeyati

Few would dispute that sovereign defaults entail significant economic costs, including, most notably, important output losses. However, most of the evidence supporting this conventional wisdom, based on annual observations, suffers from serious measurement and identification problems. To address these drawbacks, we examine the impact of default on growth by looking at quarterly data for emerging economies. We find that, contrary to what is typically assumed, output contractions precede defaults. Moreover, we find that the trough of the contraction coincides with the quarter of default, and that output starts to grow thereafter, indicating that default episode seems to mark the beginning of the economic recovery rather than a further decline. This suggests that, whatever negative effects a default may have on output, those effects result from anticipation of a default rather than the default itself.

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Paper provided by Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department in its series Research Department Publications with number 4485.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:4485
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  9. Eaton, Jonathan & Gersovitz, Mark, 1981. "Debt with Potential Repudiation: Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(2), pages 289-309, April.
  10. Eduardo Levy Yeyati, 2009. "Optimal Debt? On the Insurance Value of International Debt Flows to Developing Countries," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 20(4), pages 489-507, September.
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  19. Eduardo Borensztein & Ugo Panizza, 2009. "The Costs of Sovereign Default," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 56(4), pages 683-741, November.
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