High levels of public debt can massively reduce growth: or so says Rogoff and the Reinharts

Debt Overhangs: Past and Present by Carmen M. Reinhart, Vincent R. Reinhart, Kenneth S. Rogoff

Abstract:

We identify the major public debt overhang episodes in the advanced economies since the early 1800s, characterized by public debt to GDP levels exceeding 90% for at least five years. Consistent with Reinhart and Rogoff (2010) and other more recent research, we find that public debt overhang episodes are associated with growth over one percent lower than during other periods. Perhaps the most striking new finding here is the duration of the average debt overhang episode. Among the 26 episodes we identify, 20 lasted more than a decade. Five of the six shorter episodes were immediately after World Wars I and II. Across all 26 cases, the average duration in years is about 23 years. The long duration belies the view that the correlation is caused mainly by debt buildups during business cycle recessions. The long duration also implies that cumulative shortfall in output from debt overhang is potentially massive. We find that growth effects are significant even in the many episodes where debtor countries were able to secure continual access to capital markets at relatively low real interest rates. That is, growth-reducing effects of high public debt are apparently not transmitted exclusively through high real interest rates.

3 thoughts on “High levels of public debt can massively reduce growth: or so says Rogoff and the Reinharts

  1. That is, growth-reducing effects of high public debt are apparently not transmitted exclusively through high real interest rates.

    I wonder what other mechanisms they suggest are at play?

    Also I wonder why the exclusive focus on public debt, since corporate debt and household debt levels are also supposed to impact growth

  2. Since at least the days of a famous Corsican very high levels of public debt have frequently been connected with big wars – the investment has mostly been in unproductive activity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.