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Rising household debt: Its causes and macroeconomic implications--a long-period analysis

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  • Aldo Barba
  • Massimo Pivetti

Abstract

The article analyses the rise in household indebtedness from the point of view of its causes and long-run macroeconomic implications. The analysis is focussed on the US case. Differently from life-cycle interpretations of the phenomenon, and from interpretations in terms of erratic deviations of current income flows from their long-run trend, the rising household debt is viewed as the outcome of persistent changes in income distribution and growing income inequalities. Through household debt, low wages appear to have been brought to coexist with relatively high levels of aggregate demand, thus providing the solution to the contradiction between the necessity of high and rising consumption levels, for the growth of the system's actual output, and a framework of antagonistic conditions of distribution which keeps within limits the real income of the vast majority of society. The question of the long-run sustainability of this substitution of loans for wages is finally discussed. Copyright The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society. All rights reserved., Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Aldo Barba & Massimo Pivetti, 2009. "Rising household debt: Its causes and macroeconomic implications--a long-period analysis," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(1), pages 113-137, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:33:y:2009:i:1:p:113-137
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/cje/ben030
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