The Center and the Periphery: Two Hundred Years of International Borrowing Cycles

Graciela L. Kaminsky

NBER Working Paper No. 23975
Issued in October 2017, Revised in January 2019
NBER Program(s):The International Finance and Macroeconomics Program

A common belief in both academic and policy circles is that cyclical monetary policy in the United States increases the volatility of capital flows to the periphery. More recently, many studies on capital flows also focus on the U.S. Subprime Crisis. These studies emphasize the excessive international borrowing predating that crisis and the dramatic global retrenchment in capital flows in its aftermath. I re-examine these views using a new database I constructed of capital flows spanning two hundred years. Extending the study of capital flows to the first episode of financial globalization has two major advantages. First, during this episode, monetary policy in the financial center is constrained by the adherence to the Gold Standard, thus providing a benchmark for capital flow cycles in the absence of an active role of the central bank in the financial center. Second, panics in the financial center are rare disasters that need to be examined in a longer historical episode. The evidence from the new database indicates that capital flows to the periphery have become less volatile since the restart of globalization in the 1970s. But not all cycles are less pronounced, only those cycles around panics in the financial center. It is in times of crises at the epicenter that countercyclical monetary policy in the financial center is far more aggressive, with severe tightenings predating these crises and drastic easings in their aftermath. This policy cuts short capital flow bonanzas before these crises erupt and mitigates sudden stops in their aftermath.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23975

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