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The rise in US household debt: assessing its causes and sustainability

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  • Sebastian Barnes
  • Garry Young

Abstract

In this paper the causes of the rise in US household debt since the early 1970s are considered, using a calibrated partial equilibrium overlapping generations model. The model explains indebtedness in terms of a consumption-income motive, associated with consumption smoothing, and a housing-finance motive. A credit constraint on borrowing by the old is also introduced to explain why they do not borrow to finance homeownership late in life. Shocks to real interest rates and income growth expectations, combined with demographic changes, are considered to explain the rise in US household debt. The calibrated model is found to be able to explain many features of US household borrowing, both in aggregate and cross-section. In particular, it predicts that the debt to income ratio would have increased substantially during the 1990s and would be expected to continue to grow in coming years. However, the model is unable to account for rising indebtedness during the 1980s when high interest rates, lower income growth and an ageing population would have tended to reduce aggregate borrowing. Alternative explanations, possibly associated with financial liberalisation, may account for borrowing growth during that period.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Barnes & Garry Young, 2003. "The rise in US household debt: assessing its causes and sustainability," Bank of England working papers 206, Bank of England.
  • Handle: RePEc:boe:boeewp:206
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    Cited by:

    1. Caterina Mendicino, 2005. "Credit Market Development, Asset Prices and Business Cycle," Money Macro and Finance (MMF) Research Group Conference 2005 74, Money Macro and Finance Research Group.
    2. Michael D. Carr & Arjun Jayadev, 2013. "Relative Income and Indebtedness: Evidence from Panel Data," Working Papers 2013_02, University of Massachusetts Boston, Economics Department.
    3. Anelisa Nomatye & Andrew Phiri, 2018. "Investigating the Macroeconomic Determinants of Hosehold Debt in South Africa," International Journal of Economics and Financial Issues, Econjournals, vol. 8(2), pages 62-69.
    4. Winfried Koeniger & Thomas Hintermaier, 2007. "Incomplete Markets and the Evolution of US Consumer Debt," 2007 Meeting Papers 256, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Ursel Baumann & Georgi Krustev & Bruno Albuquerque, 2014. "Has US Household Deleveraging Ended? A Model-Based Estimate of Equilibrium Debt," Working Papers w201404, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
    6. Siti Aminah Mainal, 2017. "Post Financial Crisis and Macroeconomic Fundamentals on Household Debt in Advanced Economies," GATR Journals jfbr133, Global Academy of Training and Research (GATR) Enterprise.
    7. Ersi Athanassiou, 2007. "Prospects for Household Borrowing in Greece and their Importance for Growth," South-Eastern Europe Journal of Economics, Association of Economic Universities of South and Eastern Europe and the Black Sea Region, vol. 5(1), pages 89-101.
    8. Merxe Tudela & Garry Young, 2005. "The determinants of household debt and balance sheets in the United Kingdom," Bank of England working papers 266, Bank of England.
    9. Yunyong Thaicharoen & Kiatipong Ariyapruchya & Titima Chucherd, 2004. "Rising Thai Household Debt: Assessing Risks and Policy Implications," Working Papers 2004-01, Monetary Policy Group, Bank of Thailand.
    10. Rinaldi, Laura & Sanchis-Arellano, Alicia, 2006. "Household debt sustainability: what explains household non-performing loans? An empirical analysis," Working Paper Series 570, European Central Bank.
    11. Guy Debelle, 2004. "Macroeconomic implications of rising household debt," BIS Working Papers 153, Bank for International Settlements.
    12. Jörg Bibow, 2010. "Alternative Strategien der Budgetkonsolidierung in Österreich nach der Rezession," IMK Studies 03-2010, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    13. repec:mab:wpaper:15 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Meng, Xianming & Hoang, Nam T. & Siriwardana, Mahinda, 2013. "The determinants of Australian household debt: A macro level study," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 80-90.
    15. Vega-Lacorte, Juliana E. & Watkins-Fassler, Karen., 2013. "Crédito al consumo en Argentina durante periodos normales y de crisis económicas," Panorama Económico, Escuela Superior de Economía, Instituto Politécnico Nacional, vol. 0(16), pages 51-76, primer se.
    16. Gerhard Illing, 2004. "Geldpolitik in den USA - die Fed in der Zinsfalle?," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 57(06), pages 31-37, March.
    17. Andrew Kish, 2006. "Perspectives on recent trends in consumer debt," Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper 06-05, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    18. Ansgar Belke & Marcel Wiedmann, 2005. "Boom or Bubble in the US Real Estate Market?," Diskussionspapiere aus dem Institut für Volkswirtschaftslehre der Universität Hohenheim 260/2005, Department of Economics, University of Hohenheim, Germany.
    19. Marta Gómez-Puig & Simón Sosvilla-Rivero, 2017. "Nonfinancial debt and economic growth in euro-area countries," IREA Working Papers 201714, University of Barcelona, Research Institute of Applied Economics, revised Jul 2017.
    20. Umar Faruqui, 2007. "Are there significant disparities in debt burden across Canadian households? An examination of the distribution of the debt service ratio using micro-data," IFC Bulletins chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Proceedings of the IFC Conference on "Measuring the financial position of the household sector", Basel, 30-31 August 2006 - Volume 2, volume 26, pages 249-269 Bank for International Settlements.
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    24. Albuquerque Bruno & Baumann Ursel & Krustev Georgi, 2015. "US household deleveraging following the Great Recession – a model-based estimate of equilibrium debt," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 15(1), pages 1-53, January.

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