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The finances of American households in the past three recessions: evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Author

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  • Kevin B. Moore
  • Michael G. Palumbo

Abstract

The downturn in economic activity in the U.S. that began in December 2007 (as determined by researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research) has been noticeably deeper and has already lasted considerably longer than the prior two recessions--those beginning in July 1990 and in March 2001. In addition, a key difference between the current and the past two recessions is the extent to which consumer spending and residential investment have dropped since late 2007--that is, the extent to which the household sector appears to have "led" the drop in aggregate economic activity in this recession. This paper uses household-level data from the Federal Reserve Board's series of Surveys of Consumer Finances to document three factors that appear to have contributed to greater financial stress in the household sector in the current downturn compared with the prior two: 1) substantial and widespread reductions in home values that resulted in sizable erosions of home equity and net worth for many homeowners; 2) markedly expanded holdings of corporate equity among middle-income households which lost significant market value, on net, as stock prices sunk; and, 3) greater debt on household balance sheets and overall financial vulnerability around the onset of the 2008-09 recession, particularly for those in the middle of the income distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin B. Moore & Michael G. Palumbo, 2010. "The finances of American households in the past three recessions: evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-06, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2010-06
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.).
    2. Apergis, Nicholas, 2015. "Financial portfolio choice: Do business cycle regimes matter? Panel evidence from international household surveys," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 14-27.
    3. Thomas Philippon, 2015. "Has the US Finance Industry Become Less Efficient? On the Theory and Measurement of Financial Intermediation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(4), pages 1408-1438, April.
    4. Philippon, Thomas, 2016. "The FinTech Opportunity," CEPR Discussion Papers 11409, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Dovern, Jonas & Gern, Klaus-Jürgen & Jannsen, Nils & van Roye, Björn & Scheide, Joachim, 2010. "Schwellenländer tragen die Expansion der Weltwirtschaft," Open Access Publications from Kiel Institute for the World Economy 45590, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    6. Shannon T. Mejía & Richard A. Settersten & Michelle C. Odden & Karen Hooker, 2016. "Responses to Financial Loss During the Great Recession: An Examination of Sense of Control in Late Midlife," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 71(4), pages 734-744.
    7. Merike Kukk, 2014. "Distinguishing the Components of Household Financial Wealth: the Impact of Liabilities on Assets in Euro Area Countries," Proceedings of International Academic Conferences 0100418, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences.
    8. Mary Eschelbach Hansen & Julie Routzahn, 2014. "Gender Differences in Attitudes Toward Debt and Financial Position: The Impact of the Great Recession," Working Papers 2014-10, American University, Department of Economics.
    9. Adema, Yvonne & Pozzi, Lorenzo, 2015. "Business cycle fluctuations and household saving in OECD countries: A panel data analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 214-233.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumer credit ; Housing - Prices;

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