Date of Original Version



Working Paper

Rights Management

All Rights Reserved

Abstract or Description

The sample of observed defaults significantly understates the average firm's true expected cost of default due to a sample selection bias. To quantify this selection bias, I use a dynamic capital structure model to estimate firm-specific expected default costs. The average firm expects to lose 45% of firm value in default, a cost higher than existing estimates. However, the average cost among defaulted firms in the estimated model is only 25%, a value consistent with existing empirical estimates from observed defaults. This substantial selection bias helps to reconcile the levels of leverage and default costs observed in the data.