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Sovereign indebtedness, default, and gambling for redemption

Samuel Malone

Oxford Economic Papers, 2011, vol. 63, issue 2, 331-354

Abstract: Developing country politicians, faced with the spectre of losing office following a costly default, may be tempted to 'gamble for redemption' by instituting policies that increase the volatility of output growth, possibly at the expense of reducing average growth. We present a simple model of debt overhang that captures this intuition. Empirically, we demonstrate that sovereign defaults are significantly associated with an increased probability of job loss by political leaders: after controlling for other determinants, the quantitative effect of a default on the probability of job loss is comparable to a 3.5 standard deviation fall in economic growth. Cross country regressions reveal that, as predicted by our model, higher indebtedness is associated with higher monetary, fiscal, and public investment policy volatility and with policies that increase output volatility at the expense of growth. Copyright 2011 Oxford University Press 2010 All rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

Date: 2011
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