I construct a database that maps the timing of sovereign default decisions into elected politicians' terms of office, that provides an empirical means of investigating political economy theories of sovereign default. I find no robust patterns in the timing of default decisions over terms of office. I also find no evidence in support of the political reputation theory of sovereign debt repayment. Finally, there is some tentative evidence that elected leaders who default are also those more likely to be re-elected. Motivated by anecdotal evidence, I use a stylised model of political leaders with career concerns to demonstrate how this can occur when politicians care about re-election.
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Last update: May 23, 2012