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Household Leverage and the Recession

  • Midrigan, Virgiliu
  • Philippon, Thomas

A salient feature of the recent U.S. recession is that output and employment have declined more in regions (states, counties) where household leverage had increased more during the credit boom. This pattern is difficult to explain with standard models of financing frictions. We propose a theory that can account for these cross-sectional facts. We study a cash-in-advance economy in which home equity borrowing, alongside public money, is used to conduct transactions. A decline in home equity borrowing tightens the cash-in-advance constraint, thus triggering a recession. We show that the evidence on house prices, leverage and employment across US regions identifies the key parameters of the model. Models estimated with cross-sectional evidence display high sensitivity of real activity to nominal credit shocks. Since home equity borrowing and public money are, in the model, perfect substitutes, our counter-factual experiments suggest that monetary policy actions have significantly reduced the severity of the recent recession.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8381.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8381
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  1. Emi Nakamura & J?n Steinsson, 2014. "Fiscal Stimulus in a Monetary Union: Evidence from US Regions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(3), pages 753-92, March.
  2. Gianluca Violante & Greg Kaplan, 2011. "A Model of the Consumption Response to Fiscal Stimulus Payments," 2011 Meeting Papers 243, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Matteo Iacoviello, 2005. "House Prices, Borrowing Constraints, and Monetary Policy in the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 739-764, June.
  4. Cúrdia, Vasco & Woodford, Michael, 2009. "Conventional and Unconventional Monetary Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 7514, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Karl E. Case & John M. Quigley & Robert J. Shiller, 2011. "Wealth Effects Revisited 1978-2009," NBER Working Papers 16848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Matteo Iacoviello & Stefano Neri, 2008. "Housing market spillovers : evidence from an estimated DSGE model," Working Paper Research 145, National Bank of Belgium.
  7. Gertler, Mark & Karadi, Peter, 2011. "A model of unconventional monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 17-34, January.
  8. Guido Lorenzoni & Veronica Guerrieri, 2011. "Credit Crises, Precautionary Savings and the Liquidity Trap," 2011 Meeting Papers 1414, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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