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Public debt and financial crises in the twentieth century

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  • Schularick, Moritz

Abstract

The costs of wars have been the main driver of public debt in the Western World during the modern era. The late twentieth century stands out as a period that saw a pronounced increase of government debt to GDP ratios in peacetime. This paper assesses the role that financial crises have played in shaping the public debt trajectory in the twentieth century. Focusing on the experiences of 14 industrial economies, I show that financial crises have long and lasting effects on public finances. I provide evidence that the costs of financial crises have increased strongly in the second half of the twentieth century and that the costs of financial crises grow with the size of the financial sector. In many countries, the rising costs incurred from stabilizing the economy after financial crises were an important cause of the peacetime surge of public debt ratios in the late twentieth century. In today's highly financialized economies, financial crises have become a key risk for public finances.

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  • Schularick, Moritz, 2012. "Public debt and financial crises in the twentieth century," Discussion Papers 2012/1, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:fubsbe:20121
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    Cited by:

    1. Steiner, Andreas, 2013. "How central banks prepare for financial crises – An empirical analysis of the effects of crises and globalisation on international reserves," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 208-234.
    2. Ambrosius, Christian, 2017. "What explains the speed of recovery from banking crises?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 257-287.
    3. De Grauwe, Paul & Ji, Yuemei, 2014. "How much Fiscal Discipline in a Monetary Union?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 39(PB), pages 348-360.
    4. Ambrosius, Christian, 2015. "Policy Constraints and the Recovery from Banking Crises," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112983, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    5. repec:eee:macchp:v2-355 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Ambrosius, Christian, 2016. "What Explains the Speed of Recovery from Banking Crises?," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145606, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Michael D. Bordo & Christopher M. Meissner, 2016. "Fiscal and Financial Crises," NBER Working Papers 22059, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Markus Leibrecht & Johann Scharler, 2017. "Financial Crises and the Composition of Public Finances: Evidence from OECD Countries," ICMA Centre Discussion Papers in Finance icma-dp2017-04, Henley Business School, Reading University.

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