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The rise in U.S. household indebtedness: causes and consequences

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  • Karen E. Dynan
  • Donald L. Kohn
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    Abstract

    The ratio of total household debt to aggregate personal income in the United States has risen from an average of 0.6 in the 1980s to an average of 1.0 so far this decade. In this paper we explore the causes and consequences of this dramatic increase. Demographic shifts, house price increases, and financial innovation all appear to have contributed to the rise. Households have become more exposed to shocks to asset prices through the greater leverage in their balance sheets, and more exposed to unexpected changes in income and interest rates because of higher debt payments relative to income. At the same time, an increase in access to credit and higher levels of assets should give households, on average, a greater ability to smooth through shocks. We conclude by discussing some of the risks associated with some households having become very highly indebted relative to their assets.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2007-37.

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    Date of creation: 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2007-37

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    Keywords: Consumer credit ; Debt - United States;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    References

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    Cited by:
    1. Luigi Guiso & Paolo Sodini, 2012. "Household Finance. An Emerging Field," EIEF Working Papers Series 1204, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Mar 2012.
    2. Douglas Sutherland & Peter Hoeller, 2012. "Debt and Macroeconomic Stability: An Overview of the Literature and Some Empirics," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1006, OECD Publishing.
    3. Fligstein, Neil & Goldstein, Adam, 2012. "The Emergence of a Finance Culture in American Households, 1989-2007," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt6vp6p588, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    4. 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.).
    5. Karen E. Dynan, 2009. "Changing Household Financial Opportunities and Economic Security," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 49-68, Fall.
    6. Kenc, Turalay & Dibooglu, Sel, 2010. "The 2007-2009 financial crisis, global imbalances and capital flows: Implications for reform," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 3-21, March.

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