Government Debt and Growth: The Role of Liquidity

Mathieu Grobéty



JEL classification
H63, D92, O16, G21

Government Debt, Growth, Liquidity, Non-linearity


How does government debt affect long-run economic growth? A prominent strand of theoretical literature suggests that government debt has a negative effect on growth. Another strand argues that government debt can foster growth by enhancing the supply of liquid assets or collateral. We empirically investigate the liquidity channel of government debt and apply the difference-in-differences methodology of Rajan and Zingales (1998) on a sample of 28 manufacturing industries across 39 developing and developed countries. We provide evidence that industries with greater liquidity needs tend to grow disproportionately faster in countries with higher levels of government debt. The positive liquidity effect of government debt on industry growth stems from domestic debt, not external debt. We perform a battery of robustness checks and show that our results are robust to using instrumental variables and controlling for many competing channels.