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date: 11 July 2020

Summary and Keywords

This article reviews the literature on sovereign debt, that is, debt issued by a national government. The defining characteristic of sovereign debt is the limited mechanisms for enforcement. Because a sovereign government does not face legal consequences of default, the reasons why it makes repayment are to avoid default penalties related to reputation loss or economic cost. Theoretical and quantitative studies on sovereign debt have investigated the cause and impact of sovereign default and produced analysis of policy relevance. This article reviews the theories that quantitatively account for key empirical facts about sovereign debt. These studies enable researchers and policy makers to better understand sovereign debt crises.

Keywords: sovereign debt, sovereign default, debt crisis, imperfect enforcement

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