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Structure of income inequality and household leverage : Cross-country causal evidence

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  • Rémi Bazillier

    (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

  • Jérôme Héricourt

    (CEPII - Centre d'Etudes Prospectives et d'Informations Internationales - Centre d'analyse stratégique, LEM - Lille économie management - UMR 9221 - UA - Université d'Artois - UCL - Université catholique de Lille - Université de Lille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Samuel Ligonnière

    (BETA - Bureau d'Économie Théorique et Appliquée - AgroParisTech - UNISTRA - Université de Strasbourg - UL - Université de Lorraine - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, LEM - Lille économie management - UMR 9221 - UA - Université d'Artois - UCL - Université catholique de Lille - Université de Lille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Abstract

How does income inequality and its structure affect credit? Based on various strands of the literature, we hypothesize that rising income inequality should lead to higher house- hold credit at the aggregate level, and that a substantial part of this effect should be driven by the impoverishment of the middle class relative to top-income households. These intu- itions are empirically confirmed by a study based on a country-level dataset over the pe- riod 1970–2017. To identify exogenous variations in inequality, we develop an instrumental variable approach based on two types of country-level instruments: the total number of ratified ILO conventions and factor endowments. Our results show exogenous variations in inequality have a positive impact on household credit: a one-standard-deviation increase in the Gini index generates a 5- to 8- percentage-point expansion in the ratio of house- hold credit to GDP. In addition, the impact is 1.5–1.8 times stronger when the increase in inequality is driven by the income of top earners relative to the middle class rather than by the increase in top earners' incomes at the expense of the lowest percentiles of the dis- tribution. Those results are robust to various sets of instruments, databases, controls, and variable definitions. They also consistently disappear in countries where financial markets are insufficiently developed.

Suggested Citation

  • Rémi Bazillier & Jérôme Héricourt & Samuel Ligonnière, 2021. "Structure of income inequality and household leverage : Cross-country causal evidence," Post-Print halshs-03099741, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-03099741
    DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2020.103629
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-03099741
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Credit; Finance; Income inequality; Inequality structure;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises

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