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Household Leverage and the Recession of 2007 to 2009

  • Atif R. Mian
  • Amir Sufi

We show that household leverage as of 2006 is a powerful statistical predictor of the severity of the 2007 to 2009 recession across U.S. counties. Counties in the U.S. that experienced a large increase in household leverage from 2002 to 2006 showed a sharp relative decline in durable consumption starting in the third quarter of 2006 - a full year before the official beginning of the recession in the fourth quarter of 2007. Similarly, counties with the highest reliance on credit card borrowing reduced durable consumption by significantly more following the financial crisis of the fall of 2008. Overall, our statistical model shows that household leverage growth and dependence on credit card borrowing as of 2006 explain a large fraction of the overall consumer default, house price, unemployment, residential investment, and durable consumption patterns during the recession. Our findings suggest that a focus on household finance may help elucidate the sources macroeconomic fluctuations.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15896.

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Date of creation: Apr 2010
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Publication status: published as Household Leverage And The Recession Of 2007 To 2009 (with Amir Sufi) IMF Economic Review, May 2010 (inaugural issue).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15896
Note: CF EFG IFM ME
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  1. 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.
  2. V. V. Chari & Lawrence J. Christiano & Patrick J. Kehoe, 2008. "Facts and myths about the financial crisis of 2008," Working Papers 666, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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  4. Mishkin, Frederic S., 1978. "The Household Balance Sheet and the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 38(04), pages 918-937, December.
  5. Tovar, Camilo Ernesto, 2009. "DSGE Models and Central Banks," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 3, pages 1-31.
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  8. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2002. "Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 149-185.
  9. Edward E. Leamer, 2007. "Housing is the business cycle," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 149-233.
  10. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2009. "The Consequences of Mortgage Credit Expansion: Evidence from the U.S. Mortgage Default Crisis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1449-1496.
  11. Benjamin J. Keys & Tanmoy Mukherjee & Amit Seru & Vikrant Vig, 2010. "Did Securitization Lead to Lax Screening? Evidence from Subprime Loans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 307-362.
  12. Bernanke, Ben & Gertler, Mark, 1989. "Agency Costs, Net Worth, and Business Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 14-31, March.
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