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Growth in a Time of Debt

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  • Carmen M. Reinhart
  • Kenneth S. Rogoff

Abstract

We study economic growth and inflation at different levels of government and external debt. Our analysis is based on new data on forty-four countries spanning about two hundred years. The dataset incorporates over 3,700 annual observations covering a wide range of political systems, institutions, exchange rate arrangements, and historic circumstances. Our main findings are: First, the relationship between government debt and real GDP growth is weak for debt/GDP ratios below a threshold of 90 percent of GDP. Above 90 percent, median growth rates fall by one percent, and average growth falls considerably more. We find that the threshold for public debt is similar in advanced and emerging economies. Second, emerging markets face lower thresholds for external debt (public and private)--which is usually denominated in a foreign currency. When external debt reaches 60 percent of GDP, annual growth declines by about two percent; for higher levels, growth rates are roughly cut in half. Third, there is no apparent contemporaneous link between inflation and public debt levels for the advanced countries as a group (some countries, such as the United States, have experienced higher inflation when debt/GDP is high.) The story is entirely different for emerging markets, where inflation rises sharply as debt increases.

Suggested Citation

  • Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2010. "Growth in a Time of Debt," NBER Working Papers 15639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15639
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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 M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 1-74.
    3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2014. "This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(2), pages 1065-1188, November.
    4. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Preface," MPRA Paper 17451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    6. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-971, October.
    7. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2011. "The Forgotten History of Domestic Debt," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(552), pages 319-350, May.
    8. Anastasia Guscina & Olivier D Jeanne, 2006. "Government Debt in Emerging Market Countries; A New Data Set," IMF Working Papers 06/98, International Monetary Fund.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles
    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • F4 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative

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