Debt, Default, and Revenue Structure: The American State Debt Crisis in the Early 1840s
During the 1820s and 1830s, American state governments made large investments in canals, banks, and railroads. In the early 1840s, nine states defaulted on their debts, four ultimately repudiated all or part of their debts, and three went through substantial renegotiations. This paper examines how the states got into the debt crisis and, as a result of their earlier history, how they responded to fiscal pressure in the debt crisis. The explanation is built around revenue structures. States along the developed eastern seaboard were able to avoid politically costly property taxes, while states along the frontier were forced to rely heavily on property taxes. When faced with fiscal pressures, two of the defaulting states -- Maryland and Pennsylvania -- were able to resume debt payments, with back interest, as soon as a property tax was enacted. The other defaulting states, however, already had high property taxes. Without access to new revenue sources, these states were forced to default, and then either renegotiate or repudiate their debts.
|Date of creation:||Mar 1997|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Henning Bohn & Robert P. Inman, 1996.
"Balanced Budget Rules and Public Deficits: Evidence from the U.S. States,"
NBER Working Papers
5533, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Bohn, Henning & Inman, Robert P., 1996. "Balanced-budget rules and public deficits: evidence from the U.S. states," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 13-76, December.
- James M. Poterba, 1996. "Do Budget Rules Work?," NBER Working Papers 5550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Henning Bohn & Robert P. Inman, . "Balanced Budget Rules and Public Deficits: Evidence from the U.S. States (Reprint 060)," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 10-96, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
- Heckelman, Jac C. & Wallis, John Joseph, 1997. "Railroads and Property Taxes," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 77-99, January.
- Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1996.
"Budget Deficits and Budget Institutions,"
NBER Working Papers
5556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Barro, Robert J., 1979.
"On the Determination of the Public Debt,"
3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0097. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.