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Tracking and stress-testing U.S. household leverage

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Abstract

Borrowers’ housing equity is an important component of their wealth and a critical determinant of their vulnerability to shocks. In this paper, we create a unique data set that enables us to provide a comprehensive look at the ratio of housing debt to housing values—what we refer to as household leverage—at the micro level. An advantage of our data is that we are able to study the evolution of household leverage over time and locations in the United States. We find that leverage was at a very low point just prior to the large declines in house prices that began in 2006, and rose very quickly thereafter, despite reductions in housing debt. As of early 2016, leverage statistics are approaching their pre-crisis levels, as house prices have risen more than 30 percent nationally since 2012. We use our borrower-level leverage measures and another unique feature of our data—updated borrower credit scores—to conduct “stress tests”: projecting leverage and defaults under various adverse house price scenarios. We find that while the riskiness of the household sector has declined significantly since 2012, it remains vulnerable to very severe house price declines.

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  • Fuster, Andreas & Guttman-Kenney, Benedict & Haughwout, Andrew F., 2016. "Tracking and stress-testing U.S. household leverage," Staff Reports 787, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, revised 01 Nov 2016.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:787
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Beraja & Andreas Fuster & Erik Hurst & Joseph Vavra, 2017. "Regional Heterogeneity and Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 23270, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Bruno Albuquerque, 2017. "One Size Fits All? Monetary Policy And Asymmetric Household Debt Cycles In Us States," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 17/937, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    mortgages; leverage; stress testing;

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • E27 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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