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Do we know what we owe? A comparison of borrower- and lender-reported consumer debt

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  • Meta Brown
  • Andrew Haughwout
  • Donghoon Lee
  • Wilbert van der Klaauw

Abstract

Household surveys are the source of some of the most widely studied data on consumer balance sheets, with the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) generally cited as the leading source of wealth data for the United States. At the same time, recent research questions survey respondents’ propensity and ability to report debt characteristics accurately. We compare household debt as reported by borrowers to the SCF with household debt as reported by lenders to Equifax using the new FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel (CCP). Moments of the borrower and lender debt distributions are compared by year, age of household head, household size, and region of the country, in total and across five standard debt categories. The debt reports are strikingly similar, with one noteworthy exception: the aggregate credit card debt implied by SCF borrowers’ reports is less than 50 percent of the aggregate credit card debt implied by CCP lenders’ reports. Adjustments for sample representativeness and for small business and convenience uses of credit cards raise SCF credit card debt to somewhere between 52 and 66 percent of the CCP figure. Despite the credit card debt mismatch, bankruptcy history is reported comparably in the borrower and lender sources, indicating that not all stigmatized consumer behaviors are underreported.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 523.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:523

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Keywords: Households ; Consumer surveys ; Debt;

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References

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  1. Donald Cox & Tullio Japelli, 1993. "The Effect Of Borrowing Constraints On Consumer Liabilities," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 228, Boston College Department of Economics.
  2. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2008. "Lying About Borrowing," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 510-521, 04-05.
  3. Carol C. Bertaut & Michael Haliassos & Michael Reiter, 2009. "Credit Card Debt Puzzles and Debt Revolvers for Self Control," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 13(4), pages 657-692.
  4. Irina A. Telyukova, 2013. "Household Need for Liquidity and the Credit Card Debt Puzzle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(3), pages 1148-1177.
  5. Donghoon Lee & Wilbert van der Klaauw, 2010. "An introduction to the FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel," Staff Reports 479, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  6. Song Han & Geng Li, 2011. "Household Borrowing after Personal Bankruptcy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 43, pages 491-517, 03.
  7. Jappelli, Tullio & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen & Souleles, Nicholas, 1995. "Testing for Liquidity Constraints in Euler Equations with Complementary Data Sources," CEPR Discussion Papers 1138, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Jappelli, Tullio, 1990. "Who Is Credit Constrained in the U.S. Economy?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 219-34, February.
  9. Mariacristina De Nardi, 2004. "Wealth Inequality and Intergenerational Links," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(3), pages 743-768.
  10. Ethan Cohen-Cole & Burcu Duygan-Bump & Judit Montoriol-Garriga, 2009. "Forgive and forget: who gets credit after bankruptcy and why?," Risk and Policy Analysis Unit Working Paper QAU09-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  11. Matteo Iacoviello, 2005. "Household Debt and Income Inequality, 1963-2003," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 629, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 18 Oct 2007.
  12. Irina A. Telyukova & Randall Wright, 2007. "A model of money and credit, with application to the credit card debt puzzle," Working Paper 0711, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  13. Annamaria Lusardi & Peter Tufano, 2009. "Debt Literacy, Financial Experiences, and Overindebtedness," NBER Working Papers 14808, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Robert M. Hunt, 2002. "What's in the file? The economics and law of consumer credit bureaus," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Q2, pages 17-25.
  15. Nobuhiro Kiyotaki & Alexander Michaelides & Kalin Nikolov, 2011. "Winners and Losers in Housing Markets," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 43, pages 255-296, 03.
  16. Fissel, Gary S & Jappelli, Tullio, 1990. "Do Liquidity Constraints Vary over Time? Evidence from Survey and Panel Data," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 22(2), pages 253-62, May.
  17. Kathleen W. Johnson & Geng Li, 2010. "The Debt-Payment-to-Income Ratio as an Indicator of Borrowing Constraints: Evidence from Two Household Surveys," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 42(7), pages 1373-1390, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Alice M. Henriques & Joanne W. Hsu, 2013. "Analysis of wealth using micro and macro data: a comparison of the Survey of Consumer Finances and Flow of Funds Accounts," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2013-46, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Alice M. Henriques & Joanne W. Hsu, 2012. "Analysis of Wealth Using Micro and Macro Data: A Comparison of the Survey of Consumer Finances and Flow of Funds Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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