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r minus g negative: Can We Sleep More Soundly?

Author

Listed:
  • Paolo Mauro
  • Jing Zhou

Abstract

Contrary to the traditional assumption of interest rates on government debt exceeding economic growth, negative interest-growth differentials have become prevalent since the global financial crisis. As these differentials are a key determinant of public debt dynamics, can we sleep more soundly, despite high government debts? Our paper undertakes an empirical analysis of interestgrowth differentials, using the largest historical database on average effective government borrowing costs for 55 countries over up to 200 years. We document that negative differentials have occurred more often than not, in both advanced and emerging economies, and have often persisted for long historical stretches. Moreover, differentials are no higher prior to sovereign defaults than in normal times. Marginal (rather than average) government borrowing costs often rise abruptly and sharply, but just prior to default. Based on these results, our answer is: not really.

Suggested Citation

  • Paolo Mauro & Jing Zhou, 2020. "r minus g negative: Can We Sleep More Soundly?," IMF Working Papers 2020/052, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:2020/052
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