In response to my latest Quartz column
Paul wrote a post
taking aim at my reliance on Carmen Reinhart, Vincent Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff’s paper “Debt Overhangs, Past and Present.” I plan to write a reply to Paul at some point. In the meanwhile, I appreciate Niklas Blanchard coming to my defense in his post
Not surprisingly, I like Niklas’s post. But Niklas also takes me to task for my reliance on the paper “Debt Overhangs, Past and Present.” (Update: Niklas tweeted that his title about lack of nuance was directed at Paul, not me. I interpreted it as my not being careful enough in my discussion of Reinhart, Reinhart and Rogoff.) Among other discussions about the interaction with Paul, you can see my attempt to justify myself to Niklas in these storified tweets:
For the record, here is the passage in question in my post:
And national debt beyond a certain point can be very costly in terms of economic growth, as renowned economists Carmen Reinhart, Vincent Reinhart, and Kenneth Rogoff convincingly show in their National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper “Debt Overhangs, Past and Present.”
Where do the United Kingdom and Italy stand in relation to the 90% debt to GDP ratio Reinhart, Reinhart and Rogoff identify as a threshold for trouble?
For comparison, here is the abstract for “Debt Overhangs, Past and Present”
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.