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Changing Household Financial Opportunities and Economic Security

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  • Karen E. Dynan
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    Abstract

    Households have experienced an expansion of financial opportunities over the past several decades. Expanded financial opportunities, such as the democratization of credit and new lending approaches, can yield benefits in terms of household economic security. However, the financial crisis that began in 2007 has powerfully illustrated that expanded financial opportunities can also pose dangers for households. By increasing the scope for investment in risky assets, people may end up with larger swings in wealth than they had anticipated. Households may borrow too much and then face obligations that are unsustainable given their resources. To explore these issues, I examine household data on wealth, assets, and liabilities going back 25 years and, in some cases, 45 years. I argue that changes in household finances in the decades leading up to the mid-1990s -- including the gradual rise in indebtedness -- likely increased household well-being, on balance, and contributed to a decline in aggregate economic volatility. However, changes in finances since the mid-1990s -- in particular, a much sharper rate of increase in household debt -- appear to have been destabilizing for many individual households and ultimately for the economy as a whole. I consider how the lessons learned in the current crisis might change household financial opportunities and choices going forward.

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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.23.4.49
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/jep/app/2304_dynan_data_appendix.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

    Volume (Year): 23 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
    Pages: 49-68

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:23:y:2009:i:4:p:49-68

    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.23.4.49
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    References

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    1. Annamaria Lusardi & Peter Tufano, 2009. "Debt Literacy, Financial Experiences, and Overindebtedness," NBER Working Papers 14808, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Benjamin J. Keys & Tanmoy Mukherjee & Amit Seru & Vikrant Vig, 2010. "Did Securitization Lead to Lax Screening? Evidence from Subprime Loans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 307-362, February.
    3. Morris A. Davis & Michael G. Palumbo, 2006. "The price of residential land in large U.S. cities," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2006-25, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    5. William Adams & Liran Einav & Jonathan Levin, 2009. "Liquidity Constraints and Imperfect Information in Subprime Lending," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 49-84, March.
    6. Astrid A. Dick & Andreas Lehnert, 2010. "Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Market Competition," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 65(2), pages 655-686, 04.
    7. Edelberg, Wendy, 2006. "Risk-based pricing of interest rates for consumer loans," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 2283-2298, November.
    8. Annamaria Lusardi & Peter Tufano, 2009. "Debt Literacy, Financial Experiences, and Overindebtedness," CeRP Working Papers 83, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
    9. Charles Himmelberg & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2005. "Assessing High House Prices: Bubbles, Fundamentals and Misperceptions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 67-92, Fall.
    10. Bucks, Brian & Pence, Karen, 2008. "Do borrowers know their mortgage terms?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 218-233, September.
    11. Lusardi, Annamaria & Tufano, Peter, 2009. "Debt literacy, financial experiences, and overindebtedness," CFS Working Paper Series 2009/08, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    12. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Andreas Lehnert & Shane M. Sherlund & Paul S. Willen, 2009. "Making sense of the subprime crisis," Working Paper 2009-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    13. Karen E. Dynan & Donald L. Kohn, 2007. "The rise in U.S. household indebtedness: causes and consequences," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-37, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    14. Dynan, Karen E. & Elmendorf, Douglas W. & Sichel, Daniel E., 2006. "Can financial innovation help to explain the reduced volatility of economic activity?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 123-150, January.
    15. Christopher Mayer & Karen Pence & Shane M. Sherlund, 2009. "The Rise in Mortgage Defaults," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 27-50, Winter.
    16. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2007. "Rational and Behavioral Perspectives on the Role of Annuities in Retirement Planning," NBER Working Papers 13537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Jing Jian Xiao & Rui Yao, 2011. "Debt Holding and Burden by Family Structure in 1989-2007," NFI Working Papers 2011-WP-04, Indiana State University, Scott College of Business, Networks Financial Institute.
    2. Meng, Channarith, 2014. "Consumer Loans in Cambodia: Implications on Banking Stability," MPRA Paper 54131, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Matthew J. Eichner & Donald L. Kohn & Michael G. Palumbo, 2013. "Financial Statistics for the United States and the Crisis: What Did They Get Right, What Did They Miss, and How Could They Change?," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Wealth and Financial Intermediation and Their Links to the Real Economy National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. International Monetary Fund, 2011. "Policy Instruments To Lean Against The Wind In Latin America," IMF Working Papers 11/159, International Monetary Fund.
    5. Raj Chetty & Adam Guren & Dayanand S. Manoli & Andrea Weber, 2011. "Does Indivisible Labor Explain the Difference Between Micro and Macro Elasticities? A Meta-Analysis of Extensive Margin Elasticities," NBER Working Papers 16729, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Daniel Cooper & Karen Dynan, 2013. "Wealth shocks and macroeconomic dynamics," Public Policy Discussion Paper 13-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    7. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2013. "Borrowing High vs. Borrowing Higher: Sources and Consequences of Dispersion in Individual Borrowing Costs," NBER Working Papers 19069, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Matthew J. Eichner & Donald L. Kohn & Michael G. Palumbo, 2010. "Financial statistics for the United States and the crisis: what did they get right, what did they miss, and how should they change?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    9. Jing Jian Xiao & Rui Yao, 2011. "Consumer Debt Delinquency over Life Cycle Stages," NFI Working Papers 2011-WP-18, Indiana State University, Scott College of Business, Networks Financial Institute.
    10. Paulina Anioła & Zbigniew Gołaś, 2012. "Differences in the Level and Structure of Household Indebtedness in the EU Countries," Contemporary Economics, University of Finance and Management in Warsaw, vol. 6(1), March.

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