IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Debt and Macroeconomic Stability: An Overview of the Literature and Some Empirics


  • Douglas Sutherland
  • Peter Hoeller



How does debt affect macroeconomic stability? The answer to this question has important implications, because both public and private debt levels have reached historic highs across the OECD. While accumulating debt can help smooth real activity, at high levels debt creates weaknesses in corporate, household and government balance sheets. High debt levels can create vulnerabilities, which amplify and transmit macroeconomic and asset price shocks across the economy and internationally. The empirical evidence shows that high debt levels impair the ability of households and enterprises to smooth consumption and investment and of governments to cushion adverse shocks. The empirical evidence also suggests that when private sector debt levels, particularly for households, rise above trend the likelihood of recession increases. Furthermore, when debt levels are high, recessions tend to be more severe. Dette et stabilité macroéconomique: aperçu général des études existantes et faits constatés Quels sont les effets de l’endettement sur la stabilité macroéconomique ? La réponse à cette question a des conséquences importantes car les niveaux d’endettement publics et privés atteignent des sommets historiques dans les pays de l’OCDE. S’il est vrai que l’accumulation de dettes peut aider à lisser l’activité réelle, un endettement élevé affaiblit les bilans des entreprises, des ménages et de l’État. Un fort endettement peut être à l’origine de vulnérabilités, qui amplifient et répercutent les chocs macroéconomiques et les variations des prix des actifs dans l’économie et au plan international. L’expérience montre que des niveaux élevés d’endettement limitent la possibilité pour les ménages et les entreprises de lisser leur consommation et leurs investissements et, pour les gouvernements, d’amortir les chocs défavorables. Les données d’observations semblent aussi indiquer que lorsque la dette du secteur privé, en particulier celle des ménages, dépasse la tendance, la probabilité de récession s’accroît. Par ailleurs, lorsque les niveaux d’endettement sont élevés, les récessions sont généralement plus sévères.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas Sutherland & Peter Hoeller, 2012. "Debt and Macroeconomic Stability: An Overview of the Literature and Some Empirics," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1006, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1006-en

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Javier Bianchi, 2011. "Overborrowing and Systemic Externalities in the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3400-3426, December.
    2. Urban J. Jermann & Vincenzo Quadrini, 2006. "Financial innovations and macroeconomic volatility," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    3. Douglas Sutherland & Peter Hoeller & Rossana Merola & Volker Ziemann, 2012. "Debt and Macroeconomic Stability," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1003, OECD Publishing.
    4. Eugenio Gaiotti, 2011. "Credit availability and investment in Italy: lessons from the "Great Recession"," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 793, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    5. Balázs Égert, 2015. "Public debt, economic growth and nonlinear effects: Myth or reality?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 226-238.
    6. Ruud A. De Mooij & Michael Keen, 2016. "Debt, Taxes, and Banks," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 48(1), pages 5-33, February.
    7. Kiyotaki, Nobuhiro & Moore, John, 1997. "Credit Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(2), pages 211-248, April.
    8. Balázs Égert & Douglas Sutherland, 2014. "The Nature of Financial and Real Business Cycles: The Great Moderation and Banking Sector Pro-Cyclicality," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 61(1), pages 98-117, February.
    9. Jing Yang & Kostas Tsatsaronis, 2012. "Bank stock returns, leverage and the business cycle," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, March.
    10. Ben Bernanke & Mark Gertler, 1990. "Financial Fragility and Economic Performance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 87-114.
    11. Olivier Blanchard & John Simon, 2001. "The Long and Large Decline in U.S. Output Volatility," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(1), pages 135-174.
    12. Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 2011. "Fire Sales in Finance and Macroeconomics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 29-48, Winter.
    13. Michael G. Palumbo & Jonathan A. Parker, 2009. "The Integrated Financial and Real System of National Accounts for the United States: Does It Presage the Financial Crisis?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 80-86, May.
    14. Mariassunta Giannetti & Luc Laeven, 2012. "Flight Home, Flight Abroad, and International Credit Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 219-224, May.
    15. Carlstrom, Charles T & Fuerst, Timothy S, 1997. "Agency Costs, Net Worth, and Business Fluctuations: A Computable General Equilibrium Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 893-910, December.
    16. Ruscher Eric & Wolff Guntram B., 2013. "Corporate Balance Sheet Adjustment: Stylized Facts, Causes and Consequences," Review of Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 64(2), pages 117-138, August.
    17. Aizenman, Joshua & Pinto, Brian & Sushko, Vladyslav, 2011. "Financial sector ups and downs and the real sector : big hindrance, little help," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5860, The World Bank.
    18. Dias, Daniel A. & Richmond, Christine & Wright, Mark L.J., 2014. "The stock of external sovereign debt: Can we take the data at ‘face value’?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 1-17.
    19. Banerjee, Anindya & Marcellino, Massimiliano, 2006. "Are there any reliable leading indicators for US inflation and GDP growth?," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 137-151.
    20. Arturo Estrella & Anthony P. Rodrigues & Sebastian Schich, 2003. "How Stable is the Predictive Power of the Yield Curve? Evidence from Germany and the United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(3), pages 629-644, August.
    21. Davis, E. Philip & Stone, Mark R., 2004. "Corporate financial structure and financial stability," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 65-91, September.
    22. Garry Tang & Christian Upper, 2010. "Debt reduction after crises," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, September.
    23. Thomas Laubach, 2009. "New Evidence on the Interest Rate Effects of Budget Deficits and Debt," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(4), pages 858-885, June.
    24. Rajan, Raghuram G & Zingales, Luigi, 1995. " What Do We Know about Capital Structure? Some Evidence from International Data," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(5), pages 1421-1460, December.
    25. Angus Armstrong, 2012. "UK Household Rebalancing," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 220(1), pages 4-9, April.
    26. Jordà, Òscar & Schularick, Moritz & Taylor, Alan M., 2011. "When Credit Bites Back: Leverage, Business Cycles, and Crises," CEPR Discussion Papers 8678, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    27. James H. Stock & Mark W.Watson, 2003. "Forecasting Output and Inflation: The Role of Asset Prices," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(3), pages 788-829, September.
    28. Aiyar, Shekhar & Calomiris , Charles W & Wieladek, Tomasz, 2012. "Does macropru leak? Evidence from a UK policy experiment," Bank of England working papers 445, Bank of England.
    29. Sutherland, Alan, 1997. "Fiscal crises and aggregate demand: can high public debt reverse the effects of fiscal policy?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 147-162, August.
    30. Mendoza, Enrique G. & Smith, Katherine A., 2006. "Quantitative implications of a debt-deflation theory of Sudden Stops and asset prices," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 82-114, September.
    31. Feld, Lars P. & Heckemeyer, Jost H. & Overesch, Michael, 2013. "Capital structure choice and company taxation: A meta-study," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 2850-2866.
    32. E. Philip Davis, 2010. "Asset Prices and Real Economic Activity," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 764, OECD Publishing.
    33. Balázs Égert, 2014. "Fiscal policy reaction to the cycle in the OECD: pro- or counter-cyclical?," Mondes en développement, De Boeck Université, vol. 0(3), pages 35-52.
    34. Dan Andrews & Aida Caldera Sánchez & Åsa Johansson, 2011. "Housing Markets and Structural Policies in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 836, OECD Publishing.
    35. Adrian, Tobias & Shin, Hyun Song, 2010. "Liquidity and leverage," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 418-437, July.
    36. Banerjee, Anindya & Dolado, Juan J. & Galbraith, John W. & Hendry, David, 1993. "Co-integration, Error Correction, and the Econometric Analysis of Non-Stationary Data," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288107.
    37. Rudiger Ahrend & Antoine Goujard, 2012. "International Capital Mobility and Financial Fragility - Part 3. How Do Structural Policies Affect Financial Crisis Risk?: Evidence from Past Crises Across OECD and Emerging Economies," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 966, OECD Publishing.
    38. Karen E. Dynan & Donald L. Kohn, 2007. "The rise in U.S. household indebtedness: causes and consequences," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-37, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    39. Brad Setser & Nouriel Roubini & Christian Keller & Mark Allen & Christoph B. Rosenberg, 2002. "A Balance Sheet Approach to Financial Crisis," IMF Working Papers 02/210, International Monetary Fund.
    40. Andy Mullineux & Victor Murinde & Rudra Sensarma, 2011. "Corporate financing and macroeconomic volatility in the European union," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 79-92, April.
    41. Jimenez Porras, G. & Ongena, S. & Peydro, J.L. & Saurina, J., 2012. "Credit Supply versus Demand : Bank and Firm Balance-Sheet Channels in Good and Crisis Times," Discussion Paper 2012-005, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    42. Marcel Fratzscher & Arnaud Mehl & Isabel Vansteenkiste, 2011. "130 Years of Fiscal Vulnerabilities and Currency Crashes in Advanced Economies," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 59(4), pages 683-716, November.
    43. King, Mervyn, 1994. "Debt deflation: Theory and evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 419-445, April.
    44. Stewart C. Myers, 2001. "Capital Structure," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 81-102, Spring.
    45. Korinek, Anton, 2011. "Foreign currency debt, risk premia and macroeconomic volatility," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 371-385, April.
    46. Jeffrey R. Campbell & Zvi Hercowitz, 2005. "The Role of Collateralized Household Debt in Macroeconomic Stabilization," NBER Working Papers 11330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    47. Diaz-Alejandro, Carlos, 1985. "Good-bye financial repression, hello financial crash," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1-2), pages 1-24.
    48. Andrew Benito & Garry Young, 2007. "Financial Pressure and Balance Sheet Adjustment by Firms," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 69(5), pages 581-602, October.
    49. Nicola Cetorelli & Linda S. Goldberg, 2012. "Banking Globalization and Monetary Transmission," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 67(5), pages 1811-1843, October.
    50. Borja Larrain, 2006. "Do Banks Affect the Level and Composition of Industrial Volatility?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(4), pages 1897-1925, August.
    51. Linda Rousová & Paul van den Noord, 2011. "Predicting Peaks and Troughs in Real House Prices," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 882, OECD Publishing.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Antonio Afonso & Jose Alves, 2015. "The Role of Government Debt in Economic Growth," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 215(4), pages 9-26, December.
    2. Mikkel Hermansen & Oliver Röhn, 2017. "Economic resilience: The usefulness of early warning indicators in OECD countries," OECD Journal: Economic Studies, OECD Publishing, vol. 2016(1), pages 9-35.
    3. Henrik Braconier & Giuseppe Nicoletti & Ben Westmore, 2015. "Policy challenges for the next 50 years," OECD Journal: Economic Studies, OECD Publishing, vol. 2015(1), pages 9-66.
    4. Aida Caldera Sánchez & Morten Rasmussen & Oliver Röhn, 2016. "Economic Resilience: What Role for Policies?," Journal of International Commerce, Economics and Policy (JICEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 7(02), pages 1-44, June.
    5. Ivailo Yankov, 2016. "Endogenous Elements of the Firm Indebtedness in Bulgaria," Economic Studies journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 1, pages 126-140.
    6. repec:eee:ecmode:v:67:y:2017:i:c:p:193-202 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Kamil Galuščák & Petr Hlaváč & Petr Jakubík, 2016. "Household resilience to adverse macroeconomic shocks: evidence from Czech microdata," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(3), pages 377-402, May.
    8. Oliver Röhn & Aida Caldera Sánchez & Mikkel Hermansen & Morten Rasmussen, 2015. "Economic resilience: A new set of vulnerability indicators for OECD countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1249, OECD Publishing.
    9. Ruud A. de Mooij & Shafik Hebous, 2017. "Curbing Corporate Debt Bias: Do Limitations to Interest Deductibility Work?," CESifo Working Paper Series 6312, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Kamil Galuscak & Petr Hlavac & Petr Jakubik, 2014. "Stress Testing the Private Household Sector Using Microdata," Working Papers 2014/02, Czech National Bank, Research Department.
    11. European Commission, 2017. "Tax Policies in the European Union: 2017 Survey," Taxation Survey 2016, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
    12. Fatica, Serena & Prammer, Doris, 2017. "Housing and the tax system: how large are the distortions in the euro area?," Working Paper Series 2087, European Central Bank.
    13. Clavero, Borja, 2017. "A contribution to the Quantity Theory of Disaggregated Credit," MPRA Paper 76657, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Christophe André, 2016. "Household debt in OECD countries: stylised facts and policy issues," Chapters from NBP Conference Publications, Narodowy Bank Polski, Economic Research Department.
    15. Marta Gómez-Puig & Simón Sosvilla-Rivero, 2017. "Nonfinancial debt and economic growth in euro-area countries," IREA Working Papers 201714, University of Barcelona, Research Institute of Applied Economics, revised Jul 2017.
    16. Puente-Ajovín, Miguel & Sanso-Navarro, Marcos, 2015. "Granger causality between debt and growth: Evidence from OECD countries," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 66-77.
    17. Clayton, Maya & Liñares-Zegarra, José & Wilson, John O.S., 2015. "Does debt affect health? Cross country evidence on the debt-health nexus," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 51-58.

    More about this item


    business cycle; cycles économiques; debt; dette; macroeconomic stability; recession; récession; stabilité macroéconomique;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1006-en. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.