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A Theory of Debt Based on the Inalienability of Human Capital


  • Oliver Hart
  • John Moore


Consider an entrepreneur who needs to raise funds from an investor, but cannot commit not to withdraw his human capital from the project. The possibility of a default or quit puts an upper bound on the total future indebtedness from the entrepreneur to the investor at any date. We characterize the optimal repayment path and show how it is affected both by the maturity structure of the project return stream and by the durability and specificity of project assets. Our results are consistent with the conventional wisdom about what determines the maturity structure of (long-term) debt contracts.

Suggested Citation

  • Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1991. "A Theory of Debt Based on the Inalienability of Human Capital," NBER Working Papers 3906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3906
    Note: CF

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    Cited by:

    1. Li, David D. & Li, Shan, 1999. "An agency theory of the bankruptcy law," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 1-24, January.
    2. Honohan, Patrick*Vittas, Dimitri, 1996. "Bank regulation and the network paradigm : policy implications for developing and transition economies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1631, The World Bank.
    3. Willem H. Buiter & Kenneth M. Kletzer, 1995. "Capital Mobility, Fiscal Policy, and Growth under Self-Financing of Human Capital Formation," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 28(s1), pages 163-194, November.
    4. Philippe Aghion & Oliver D. Hart & John Moore, 1994. "The Economics of Bankruptcy Reform," NBER Chapters,in: The Transition in Eastern Europe, Volume 2: Restructuring, pages 215-244 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Kiyotaki, Nobuhiro & Moore, John, 1997. "Credit Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(2), pages 211-248, April.
    6. Bernanke, Ben & Gertler, Mark & Gilchrist, Simon, 1996. "The Financial Accelerator and the Flight to Quality," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(1), pages 1-15, February.
    7. Hale, Galina B & Razin, Assaf & Tong, Hui, 2007. "Creditor Protection and Stock Price Volatility," CEPR Discussion Papers 6540, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Martel, Jocelyn, 1996. "Solutions au stress financier," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 72(1), pages 51-78, mars.
    9. Vincente Cuñat, 2000. "Trade Credit: Suppliers as Debt Collectors and Insurance Providers," FMG Discussion Papers dp365, Financial Markets Group.
    10. Jocelyn Martel, 1996. "Solutions au stress financier : Un survol de la littérature," CIRANO Working Papers 96s-03, CIRANO.
    11. Dachraoui, K. & Dionne, G., 1999. "Capital Structure and Compensation Policies," Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Montreal- 99-03, Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Montreal-Chaire de gestion des risques..
    12. Mariarosa Scarlata & Luisa Alemany, 2010. "Deal Structuring in Philanthropic Venture Capital Investments: Financing Instrument, Valuation and Covenants," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 95(2), pages 121-145, September.
    13. Petersen, Mitchell A & Rajan, Raghuram G, 1997. "Trade Credit: Theories and Evidence," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 10(3), pages 661-691.
    14. Kiminori Matsuyama, 2007. "Credit Traps and Credit Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 503-516, March.
    15. Brandon Julio & Woojin Kim & Michael Weisbach, 2007. "What Determines the Structure of Corporate Debt Issues?," NBER Working Papers 13706, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Douglas W. Diamond, 1994. "Corporate capital structure: the control roles of bank and public debt with taxes and costly bankruptcy," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 11-37.
    17. Jyrki Niskanen & Mervi Niskanen, 2006. "The Determinants of Corporate Trade Credit Policies in a Bank-dominated Financial Environment: the Case of Finnish Small Firms," European Financial Management, European Financial Management Association, vol. 12(1), pages 81-102.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation


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