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Household Leverage and the Recession

  • Thomas Philippon
  • Virgiliu Midrigan

A salient feature of the recent U.S. recession is that output and employment have declined more in regions (states, counties) where household leverage had increased more during the credit boom. This pattern is difficult to explain with standard models of financing frictions. We propose a theory that can account for these cross-sectional facts. We study a cash-in-advance economy in which home equity borrowing, alongside public money, is used to conduct transactions. A decline in home equity borrowing tightens the cash-in-advance constraint, thus triggering a recession. We show that the evidence on house prices, leverage and employment across US regions identifies the key parameters of the model. Models estimated with cross-sectional evidence display high sensitivity of real activity to nominal credit shocks. Since home equity borrowing and public money are, in the model, perfect substitutes, our counter-factual experiments suggest that monetary policy actions have significantly reduced the severity of the recent recession.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w16965.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16965.

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Date of creation: Apr 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16965
Note: AP EFG 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. Karl E. Case & John M. Quigley & Robert J. Shiller, 2011. "Wealth Effects Revisited 1978-2009," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1784, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. Vasco Cúrdia & Michael Woodford, 2010. "Conventional and unconventional monetary policy," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 229-264.
  4. Kaplan, Greg & Violante, Giovanni L, 2011. "A Model of the Consumption Response to Fiscal Stimulus Payments," CEPR Discussion Papers 8562, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Veronica Guerrieri & Guido Lorenzoni, 2011. "Credit Crises, Precautionary Savings, and the Liquidity Trap," NBER Working Papers 17583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Gertler, Mark & Karadi, Peter, 2011. "A model of unconventional monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 17-34, January.
  7. Matteo Iacoviello & Stefano Neri, 2010. "Housing Market Spillovers: Evidence from an Estimated DSGE Model," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 125-64, April.
  8. Emi Nakamura & Jón Steinsson, 2011. "Fiscal Stimulus in a Monetary Union: Evidence from U.S. Regions," NBER Working Papers 17391, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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