Brief history of US debt limits before 1939

George J. Hall, Thomas J. Sargent

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Between 1776 and 1920, the US Congress designed more than 200 distinct securities and stated the maximum amount of each that the Treasury could sell. Between 1917 and 1939, Congress gradually delegated all decisions about designing US debt instruments to the Treasury. In 1939, Congress began imposing a limit on the par value of total federal debt outstanding. By summing Congressional borrowing authorizations outstanding each year for each bond, we construct a time series of implied federal debt limits before 1939.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)2942-2945
    Number of pages4
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number12
    StatePublished - Mar 20 2018


    • Debt ceiling
    • Debt management
    • Fiscal policy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


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