The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper contains an empirical investigation of the set of economic and political conditions that are associated with a likely occurrence of a sovereign debt crisis. We use a new statistical approach (Binary Recursive Tree) that allows us to derive a collection of "rules of thumb" that help identify the typical characteristics of defaulters. We find that not all crises are equal: they differ depending on whether the government faces insolvency, illiquidity, or various macroeconomic risks. We also characterize the set of fundamentals that can be associated with a relatively "risk free" zone. This classification is important for discussing appropriate policy options to prevent crises and improve response time and prediction.