Global Debt Database: Methodology and Sources


Samba Mbaye ; Marialuz Moreno Badia ; Kyungla Chae

Publication Date:

May 14, 2018

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Disclaimer: IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.


This paper describes the compilation of the Global Debt Database (GDD), a cutting-edge dataset covering private and public debt for virtually the entire world (190 countries) dating back to the 1950s. The GDD is the result of a multiyear investigative process that started with the October 2016 Fiscal Monitor, which pioneered the expansion of private debt series to a global sample. It differs from existing datasets in three major ways. First, it takes a fundamentally new approach to compiling historical data. Where most debt datasets either provide long series with a narrow and changing definition of debt or comprehensive debt concepts over a short period, the GDD adopts a multidimensional approach by offering multiple debt series with different coverages, thus ensuring consistency across time. Second, it more than doubles the cross-sectional dimension of existing private debt datasets. Finally, the integrity of the data has been checked through bilateral consultations with officials and IMF country desks of all countries in the sample, setting a higher data quality standard.


Working Paper No. 2018/111



Publication Date:

May 14, 2018



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