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The U.S. Public Debt Valuation Puzzle

Author

Listed:
  • Zhengyang Jiang
  • Hanno Lustig
  • Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh
  • Mindy Z. Xiaolan

Abstract

The government budget constraint ties the market value of government debt to the expected present discounted value of fiscal surpluses. Bond investors fail to impose this no-arbitrage restriction in the U.S., resulting in a government debt valuation puzzle. Both cyclical and long-run dynamics of tax revenues and government spending make the surplus claim risky. Under a realistic asset pricing model, this risk in surpluses creates a wedge of 299% of GDP between the value of debt and that the surplus claim, and implies an expected return on the debt portfolio that far exceeds the observed yield on Treasuries.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhengyang Jiang & Hanno Lustig & Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh & Mindy Z. Xiaolan, 2019. "The U.S. Public Debt Valuation Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 26583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26583
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets

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