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Debt Overhangs: Past and Present

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  • Carmen M. Reinhart
  • Vincent R. Reinhart
  • Kenneth S. Rogoff

Abstract

We identify the major public debt overhang episodes in the advanced economies since the early 1800s, characterized by public debt to GDP levels exceeding 90% for at least five years. Consistent with Reinhart and Rogoff (2010) and other more recent research, we find that public debt overhang episodes are associated with growth over one percent lower than during other periods. Perhaps the most striking new finding here is the duration of the average debt overhang episode. Among the 26 episodes we identify, 20 lasted more than a decade. Five of the six shorter episodes were immediately after World Wars I and II. Across all 26 cases, the average duration in years is about 23 years. The long duration belies the view that the correlation is caused mainly by debt buildups during business cycle recessions. The long duration also implies that cumulative shortfall in output from debt overhang is potentially massive. We find that growth effects are significant even in the many episodes where debtor countries were able to secure continual access to capital markets at relatively low real interest rates. That is, growth-reducing effects of high public debt are apparently not transmitted exclusively through high real interest rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent R. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2012. "Debt Overhangs: Past and Present," NBER Working Papers 18015, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18015
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Panizza, Ugo & Presbitero, Andrea F., 2014. "Public debt and economic growth: Is there a causal effect?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 21-41.
    3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Graciela L. Kaminsky, 1999. "The Twin Crises: The Causes of Banking and Balance-of-Payments Problems," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 473-500, June.
    4. 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.
    5. Stephen Cecchetti & Madhusudan Mohanty & Fabrizio Zampolli, 2011. "The real effects of debt," BIS Working Papers 352, Bank for International Settlements.
    6. Marco Terrones & Enrique G. Mendoza, 2008. "An Anatomy of Credit Booms; Evidence From Macro Aggregates and Micro Data," IMF Working Papers 08/226, International Monetary Fund.
    7. 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.
    8. Jaejoon Woo & Manmohan S. Kumar, 2015. "Public Debt and Growth," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 82(328), pages 705-739, October.
    9. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2014. "A Decade of Debt," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Miguel Fuentes D. & Claudio E. Raddatz & Carmen M. Reinhart (ed.), Capital Mobility and Monetary Policy, edition 1, volume 18, chapter 4, pages 97-135 Central Bank of Chile.
    10. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Preface," MPRA Paper 17451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2011. "From Financial Crash to Debt Crisis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1676-1706, August.
    14. Catherine Pattillo & Hélène Poirson & Luca Antonio Ricci, 2011. "External Debt and Growth," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 2(3).
    15. Carmen M. Reinhart & M. Belen Sbrancia1, 2015. "The liquidation of government debt," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 30(82), pages 291-333.
    16. 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.
    17. Jean Arcand & Enrico Berkes & Ugo Panizza, 2015. "Too much finance?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 105-148, June.
    18. Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart, 2010. "After the fall," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 17-60.
    19. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2010. "Debt and Growth Revisited," MPRA Paper 24376, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Frits Bos, 2007. "The Dutch fiscal framework; history, current practice and the role of the CPB," CPB Document 150, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • E63 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Comparative or Joint Analysis of Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stabilization; Treasury Policy
    • F30 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - General
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations

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