Does Austerity Pay Off?


We investigate if a reduction of government consumption lowers the sovereign default premium. For this purpose we build a new data set for 38 emerging and developed economies. Results vary along three dimensions. First, the time horizon: the premium declines, but only in the long run. Second, initial conditions: the premium increases in the short run, but only if it is already high. Third, size: the short-run response of the premium increases disproportionately as government consumption is reduced. We rationalize these findings in a structural model of optimal sovereign default where default risk is priced in an actuarially fair manner.

Revision requested at Review of Economics and Statistics