Journal Article

The Output Costs of Hard and Soft Sovereign Default


  • Trebesch
  • C.
  • Zabel
  • M.
Publication Date

How costly are sovereign debt crises? In this paper we study output losses during sovereign default and debt renegotiation episodes since 1980. In contrast to previous work, we account for the severity of default and not only for its occurrence. Specifically, we distinguish between “hard” and “soft” defaults, using new data on debtor payment and negotiation behavior and on the size of haircuts towards private external creditors. We show that hard defaults are associated with a much steeper drop in GDP, of up to ten percent, compared to soft defaults. The results are consistent with theoretical models assuming proportional output costs of default.

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JEL Classification
F34, F41, H63

Key Words

  • debt restructuring
  • economic growth
  • Reputation
  • Sovereign debt crises
  • Wirtschaftswachstum