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What Has Financed Government Debt?

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Executive Summary

Equilibrium models imply that the real value of debt in the hands of the public must equal the expected present-value of surpluses. Empirical models of fiscal policy typically do not impose this condition and often do not even include debt. Absence of debt from empirical models can produce non-invertible representations, obscuring the true present-value relation, even if it holds in the data. First, the authors show that small VAR models of fiscal policy may not be invertible and that expanding the information set to include government debt has quantitatively important implications. Then they impose the present-value condition on an identified VAR and characterize the way in which the present-value support of debt varies across types of fiscal shocks.

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