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Risk of over-indebtedness and behavioural factors


  • Daniela VANDONE


The aim of this paper is to analyse the link between behaviour and overindebtedness and to shed light on the effectiveness of policy measures to tackle household financial fragility. Behaviour leading to overindebtedness is often put down to social and psychological factors that reduce an individual’s capacity to evaluate the consequences of his/her consumption and borrowing decisions. Such decisions may not be rational from a classic economic point of view. In fact individuals tend, on the one hand, to overestimate their capacity to manage domestic financial resources and, on the other hand, to underestimate the possibility of being affected by negative events. As a result, these individuals systematically underestimate the risk of not being able to meet their financial commitments. Furthermore, they overestimate the immediate benefits and undervalue the future costs; such behaviour leads to the decision to purchase, using debt if necessary, regardless of the effect this choice may have on the sustainability of future debt levels. The fact that overindebtedness may be caused by individuals’ irrational behaviour is relevant and has to be taken into account in order to devise appropriate measures to prevent or manage situations of financial difficulties and to evaluate their effectiveness. The empirical literature has shown how psychological factors have an impact on the effectiveness of policies adopted to prevent and manage financial difficulties arising from overindebtedness. Studies carried out within behavioural economics have also shown that individuals have little awareness of these psychological mechanisms. Indeed, individuals in financial difficulties tend to lay the blame on exogenous factors such as job or family difficulties, which reduce income level below expected. Rarely do individuals recognise that the causes for their difficulties lie principally - or at least also - with their inability to manage money and the decisions made regarding spending and indebtedness. Furthermore, many studies have shown how deviant behaviour patterns persist even when individuals are aware of the risks they face. Individuals’ incapacity to take corrective steps despite knowing the dangers of overindebtedness may have significant implication for designing effective policies to management situations of indebtedness that may become pathological.

Suggested Citation

  • Luisa ANDERLONI & Daniela VANDONE, 2010. "Risk of over-indebtedness and behavioural factors," Departmental Working Papers 2010-25, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
  • Handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2010-25

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    Cited by:

    1. Piotr Bialowolski & Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska, 2014. "The Index of Household Financial Condition, Combining Subjective and Objective Indicators: An Appraisal of Italian Households," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 118(1), pages 365-385, August.
    2. Luisa ANDERLONI & Emanuele BACCHIOCCHI & Daniela VANDONE, 2011. "Household financial vulnerability: an empirical analysis," Departmental Working Papers 2011-02, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano, revised 03 Nov 2011.
    3. Elisabete Santos & Margarida Abreu, 2013. "Financial Literacy, Financial Behaviour and Individuals’ Over-indebtedness," Working Papers Department of Economics 2013/11, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.
    4. Luisa ANDERLONI & Daniela VANDONE, 2011. "Vulnerabilità e benessere delle famiglie italiane," Departmental Working Papers 2011-40, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    5. Michael Goedde-Menke & Carsten Erner & Michael Oberste, 2017. "Towards more sustainable debt attitudes and behaviors: the importance of basic economic skills," Journal of Business Economics, Springer, vol. 87(5), pages 645-668, July.
    6. Giovanni D'Alessio & Stefano Iezzi, 2016. "Over-indebtedness in Italy: how widespread and persistent is it?," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 319, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    7. Giovanni D’Alessio & Stefano Iezzi, 2013. "Household over-indebtedness - Definition and measurement with Italian data," IFC Bulletins chapters, in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Proceedings of the Sixth IFC Conference on "Statistical issues and activities in a changing environment", Basel, 28-29 August 2012., volume 36, pages 496-517, Bank for International Settlements.

    More about this item


    Households behavioural finance; overindebtedness; consumer credit;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages


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