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Public Debt and Growth


  • Jaejoon Woo
  • Manmohan S. Kumar


This paper explores the impact of high public debt on long-run economic growth. The analysis, based on a panel of advanced and emerging economies over almost four decades, takes into account a broad range of determinants of growth as well as various estimation issues including reverse causality and endogeneity. In addition, threshold effects, nonlinearities, and differences between advanced and emerging market economies are examined. The empirical results suggest an inverse relationship between initial debt and subsequent growth, controlling for other determinants of growth: on average, a 10 percentage point increase in the initial debt-to-GDP ratio is associated with a slowdown in annual real per capita GDP growth of around 0.2 percentage points per year, with the impact being somewhat smaller in advanced economies. There is some evidence of nonlinearity with higher levels of initial debt having a proportionately larger negative effect on subsequent growth. Analysis of the components of growth suggests that the adverse effect largely reflects a slowdown in labor productivity growth mainly due to reduced investment and slower growth of capital stock.

Suggested Citation

  • Jaejoon Woo & Manmohan S. Kumar, 2010. "Public Debt and Growth," IMF Working Papers 10/174, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:10/174

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "The Aftermath of Financial Crises," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 466-472, May.
    2. Carmen Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart, 2009. "Capital Flow Bonanzas: An Encompassing View of the Past and Present," NBER Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2008, pages 9-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2010. "Growth in a Time of Debt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 573-578, May.
    4. Francesco Caselli & James Feyrer, 2007. "The Marginal Product of Capital," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 535-568.
    5. Xavier Sala-I-Martin & Gernot Doppelhofer & Ronald I. Miller, 2004. "Determinants of Long-Term Growth: A Bayesian Averaging of Classical Estimates (BACE) Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 813-835, September.
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