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A Decade of Debt

  • Carmen M. Reinhart
  • Kenneth S. Rogoff

This paper presents evidence that public debts in the advanced economies have surged in recent years to levels not recorded since the end of World War II, surpassing the heights reached during the First World War and the Great Depression. At the same time, private debt levels, particularly those of financial institutions and households, are in uncharted territory and are (in varying degrees) a contingent liability of the public sector in many countries. Historically, high leverage episodes have been associated with slower economic growth and a higher incidence of default or, more generally, restructuring of public and private debts. A more subtle form of debt restructuring in the guise of "financial repression" (which had its heyday during the tightly regulated Bretton Woods system) also importantly facilitated sharper and more rapid debt reduction than would have otherwise been the case from the late 1940s to the 1970s. It is conjectured here that the pressing needs of governments to reduce debt rollover risks and curb rising interest expenditures in light of the substantial debt overhang (combined with the widespread "official aversion" to explicit restructuring) are leading to a revival of financial repression--including more directed lending to government by captive domestic audiences (such as pension funds), explicit or implicit caps on interest rates, and tighter regulation on cross-border capital movements.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16827.

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Date of creation: Feb 2011
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Publication status: published as A Decade of Debt (with Carmen M Reinhart), Washington DC: Peterson Institute for International Economics, September 2011.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16827
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  1. Reinhart, Carmen M. & Reinhart, Vincent, 2008. "Capital Flow Bonanzas: An Encompassing View of the Past and Present," CEPR Discussion Papers 6996, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  3. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2010. "Debt and Growth Revisited," MPRA Paper 24376, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Sophia, 2003. "Greek Monetary Economics in Retrospect: The Adventures of the Drachma," Working Papers 02, Bank of Greece.
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  9. Jaejoon Woo & Manmohan S. Kumar, 2010. "Public Debt and Growth," IMF Working Papers 10/174, International Monetary Fund.
  10. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2002. "The Modern History of Exchange Rate Arrangements: A Reinterpretation," NBER Working Papers 8963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Peter H. Lindert & Peter J. Morton, 1989. "How Sovereign Debt Has Worked," NBER Chapters, in: Developing Country Debt and the World Economy, pages 225-236 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Peter H. Lindert & Peter J. Morton, 1989. "How Sovereign Debt Has Worked," NBER Chapters, in: Developing Country Debt and Economic Performance, Volume 1: The International Financial System, pages 39-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Gerard Caprio, Jr. and Patrick Honohan, 2008. "Banking Crises," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp242, IIIS.
  13. Carmen M. Reinhart & M. Belen Sbrancia, 2011. "The Liquidation of Government Debt," BIS Working Papers 363, Bank for International Settlements.
  14. Reinhart, Carmen M. & Rogoff, Kenneth S., 2010. "Growth in a Time of Debt," Scholarly Articles 11129154, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  15. Carmen M. Reinhart, 2010. "This Time is Different Chartbook: Country Histories on Debt, Default, and Financial Crises," NBER Working Papers 15815, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Enrique G. Mendoza & Marco E. Terrones, 2008. "An anatomy of credit booms: evidence from macro aggregates and micro data," International Finance Discussion Papers 936, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  17. Giovannini, Alberto & de Melo, Martha, 1993. "Government Revenue from Financial Repression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 953-63, September.
  18. Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria & Strobbe, Francesco & Tamirisa, Natalia, 2010. "Bilateral Financial Linkages and Global Imbalances: A View on The Eve of the Financial Crisis," CEPR Discussion Papers 8173, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973, April.
  20. 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.
  21. Graciela L. Kaminsky & Carmen Reinhart & Carlos A. Vegh, 2003. "The Unholy Trinity of Financial Contagion," NBER Working Papers 10061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Diaz-Alejandro, Carlos, 1985. "Good-bye financial repression, hello financial crash," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1-2), pages 1-24.
  23. Reinhart, Carmen & Kaminsky, Graciela, 1999. "The twin crises: The causes of banking and balance of payments problems," MPRA Paper 14081, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  24. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1988. "Servicing the Public Debt: The Role of Expectations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 647-61, September.
  25. Eichengreen, Barry, 1996. "Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195101133, March.
  26. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 1996. "Foundations of International Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262150476, June.
  27. Mark Aguiar & Gita Gopinath, 2004. "Defaultable Debt, Interest Rates and the Current Account," NBER Working Papers 10731, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. Krugman, Paul, 1979. "A Model of Balance-of-Payments Crises," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 11(3), pages 311-25, August.
  29. Milton Friedman & Anna J. Schwartz, 1963. "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie63-1, August.
  30. Joseph E. Gagnon & Marc Hinterschweiger, 2011. "The Global Outlook for Government Debt over the Next 25 Years: Implications for the Economy and Public Policy," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 6215, December.
  31. Easterly, William R., 1989. "Fiscal adjustment and deficit financing during the debt crisis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 138, The World Bank.
  32. Michael Bordo & Barry Eichengreen & Daniela Klingebiel & Maria Soledad Martinez-Peria, 2001. "Is the crisis problem growing more severe?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 51-82, 04.
  33. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Preface," MPRA Paper 17451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  34. John Geanakoplos & Ana Fostel, 2008. "Leverage Cycles and the Anxious Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1211-44, September.
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