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History Remembered: Optimal Sovereign Default on Domestic and External Debt

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  • Pablo D'Erasmo

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia)

  • Enrique G. Mendoza

    (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract

Infrequent but turbulent overt sovereign defaults on domestic creditors are a "forgotten history" in Macroeconomics. We propose a heterogeneous-agents model in which the government chooses optimal debt and default on domestic and foreign creditors by balancing distributional incentives v. the social value of debt for self-insurance, liquidity, and risk-sharing. A rich feedback mechanism links debt issuance, the distribution of debt holdings, the default decision, and risk premia. Calibrated to Eurozone data, the model is consistent with key long-run and debt-crisis statistics. Defaults are rare (1.2 percent frequency), and preceded by surging debt and spreads. Debt sells at the risk-free price most of the time, but the government's lack of commitment reduces sustainable debt sharply.

Suggested Citation

  • Pablo D'Erasmo & Enrique G. Mendoza, 2018. "History Remembered: Optimal Sovereign Default on Domestic and External Debt," PIER Working Paper Archive 18-018, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 14 Sep 2018.
  • Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:18-018
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    Cited by:

    1. Farzana Alamgir & Alok Johri, 2022. "International Sovereign Spread Differences and the Poverty of Nations," Department of Economics Working Papers 2022-06, McMaster University.
    2. Antonio Cusato Novelli, 2021. "Sovereign default, political instability and political fragmentation," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 732-755, September.
    3. Mitchener, Kris James & Trebesch, Christoph, 2021. "Sovereign Debt in the 21st Century: Looking Backward, Looking Forward," CEPR Discussion Papers 15935, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Silvia Marchesi & Tania Masi & Pietro Bomprezzi, 2021. "Is to Forgive to Forget? Sovereign Risk in the Aftermath of a Default," Development Working Papers 475, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano.
    5. Bernardo Guimaraes & Lucas Tumkus, 2020. "On the costs of sovereign default in quantitative models," Discussion Papers 2021, Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM).
    6. Demian Pouzo & Ignacio Presno, 2020. "Optimal Taxation with Endogenous Default under Incomplete Markets," International Finance Discussion Papers 1297, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    7. Roettger, Joost, 2019. "Discretionary monetary and fiscal policy with endogenous sovereign risk," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 44-66.
    8. Dachraoui, Hajer & Smida, Mounir & Sebri, Maamar, 2020. "Role of capital flight as a driver of sovereign bond spreads in Latin American countries," International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 15-33.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    public debt; sovereign default; debt crisis; European crisis;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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