Coming to Terms: The Politics of Sovereign Bond Denomination

Cameron Ballard-Rosa, Layna Mosley, Rachel L. Wellhausen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Governments interact strategically with sovereign bond market creditors: they make choices not only about how often and how much to borrow, but also under what terms. The denomination of debt, in domestic or foreign currency, is a critical part of these terms. The original sin logic has long predicted that creditors have little appetite for developing-country government debt issued in domestic currency. Our novel data, including bond issues by 131 countries in 240,000 primary market transactions between 1990 and 2016, suggest otherwise. Domestic-denominated bonds have come to dominate the market, although domestic-currency issuance often is accompanied by shorter bond maturities. We argue that ideologically rooted policy preferences play an important role in this unexpected trend in denomination. All else equal, right governments choose foreign denomination as a means of mitigating currency risk and thus minimizing borrowing costs. In contrast, left governments opt for the flexibility of domestic denomination, and they are better able to act on their preferences in the presence of risk-mitigating monetary institutions and macroeconomic stability. We find support for our argument that partisanship has a robust and enduring relationship with denomination outcomes, even in a marketplace in which domestic-denominated developing-country sovereign bonds have become the norm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-69
Number of pages38
JournalInternational Organization
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 10 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


  • Sovereign debt
  • bond terms
  • currency
  • denomination
  • emerging markets
  • partisanship


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