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Borrowing During Unemployment: Unsecured Debt as a Safety Net

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  • James X. Sullivan

Abstract

This paper examines whether unsecured credit markets help disadvantaged households supplement temporary shortfalls in earnings by investigating how unsecured debt responds to unemployment-induced earnings losses. Results indicate that very low-asset households—those in the bottom decile of total assets—do not borrow in response to these shortfalls. However, other low-asset households do borrow, increasing unsecured debt by more than 11 cents per dollar of earnings lost. In contrast, wealthy households do not increase unsecured debt during unemployment. The evidence suggests that very low-asset households do not have sufficient access to unsecured credit to smooth consumption over transitory unemployment spells.

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File URL: http://jhr.uwpress.org/cgi/reprint/43/2/383
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Wisconsin Press in its journal Journal of Human Resources.

Volume (Year): 43 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 383-412

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Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:43:y:2008:i:2:p:383-412

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Web page: http://jhr.uwpress.org/

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Cited by:
  1. Ron Borzekowski & K. Kiser Elizabeth & Ahmed Shaista, 2008. "Consumers' Use of Debit Cards: Patterns, Preferences, and Price Response," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 40(1), pages 149-172, 02.
  2. Bauer, Christian, 2011. "On the reservation wage under CARA and limited borrowing," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 126-129, September.
  3. Tucker, Jenna N. & Key, Clinton C. & Grinstein-Weiss, Michal, 2014. "The benefits of saving at tax time: Evidence from the $aveNYC evaluation," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 50-61.
  4. Thomas F. Crossley & Hamish W. Low, 2004. "Borrowing Constraints, the Cost of Precautionary Saving, and Unemployment Insurance," Quantitative Studies in Economics and Population Research Reports 391, McMaster University.
  5. Peter Debbaut & Andra C. Ghent & Marianna Kudlyak, 2013. "Are young borrowers bad borrowers? Evidence from the Credit CARD Act of 2009," Working Paper 13-09, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  6. Athreya, Kartik & Tam, Xuan S. & Young, Eric R., 2009. "Unsecured credit markets are not insurance markets," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 83-103, January.
  7. Jaime Ruiz-Tagle & Leidy García & Álvaro Miranda, 2013. "Proceso de Endeudamiento y Sobre Endeudamiento de los Hogares en Chile," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 703, Central Bank of Chile.
  8. Tetsuo Ono, 2010. "Growth and unemployment in an OLG economy with public pensions," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 737-767, March.
  9. Edouard Challe & Xavier Ragot, 2013. "Precautionary Saving over the Business Cycle," PSE Working Papers hal-00843150, HAL.
  10. Ivan Vidangos, 2009. "Household welfare, precautionary saving, and social insurance under multiple sources of risk," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-14, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  11. Julia Bredtmann & Sebastian Otten & Christian Rulff, 2014. "Husband’s Unemployment and Wife’s Labor Supply – The Added Worker Effect across Europe," Ruhr Economic Papers 0484, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
  12. Raj Chetty, 2005. "Why do Unemployment Benefits Raise Unemployment Durations? Moral Hazard vs. Liquidity," NBER Working Papers 11760, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. James X. Sullivan, 2006. "Welfare Reform, Saving, and Vehicle Ownership: Do Asset Limits and Vehicle Exemptions Matter?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(1).
  14. H. Shaefer & Xiaoqing Song & Trina Williams Shanks, 2013. "Do single mothers in the United States use the Earned Income Tax Credit to reduce unsecured debt?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 659-680, December.
  15. repec:hal:wpaper:hal-00843150 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Marc K Chan, 2014. "Welfare Dependence and Self-Control: An Empirical Analysis," Working Paper Series 19, Economics Discipline Group, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney.
  17. Agarwal, Sumit & Hu, Luojia & Huang, Xing, 2013. "Rushing into American Dream? House Prices, Timing of Homeownership, and Adjustment of Consumer Credit," Working Paper Series WP-2013-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  18. Hyytinen, Ari & Putkuri, Hanna, 2012. "Household optimism and borrowing," Research Discussion Papers 21/2012, Bank of Finland.

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