A Distant Mirror of Debt, Default, and Relief

62 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2014

See all articles by Carmen Reinhart

Carmen Reinhart

Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) ; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Christoph Trebesch

Kiel Institute for the World Economy; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: October 2014

Abstract

We take a first pass at quantifying the magnitudes of debt relief achieved through default and restructuring in two distinct samples: 1979-2010, focusing on credit events in emerging markets, and 1920-1939, documenting the official debt hangover in advanced economies that was created by World War I and its aftermath. We examine the economic performance of debtor countries during and after these overhang episodes, by tracing the evolution of real per capita GDP (levels and growth rates); sovereign credit ratings; debt servicing burdens relative to GDP, fiscal revenues, and exports; as well as the level of government debt (external and total). Across 45 crisis episodes for which data is available we find that debt relief averaged 21 percent of GDP for advanced economies (1932-1939) and 16 percent of GDP for emerging markets (1979-2010), respectively. The economic landscape after a final debt reduction is characterized by higher income levels and growth, lower debt servicing burdens and lower government debt. Also ratings recover markedly, albeit only in the modern period.

JEL Classification: E6, F3, H6, N0

Suggested Citation

Reinhart, Carmen and Trebesch, Christoph, A Distant Mirror of Debt, Default, and Relief (October 2014). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP10195, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2510053

Carmen Reinhart (Contact Author)

Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) ( email )

79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-8643 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Christoph Trebesch

Kiel Institute for the World Economy ( email )

P.O. Box 4309
Kiel, Schleswig-Hosltein D-24100
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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