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Incomplete Markets and the Evolution of US Consumer Debt

  • Winfried Koeniger

    (IZA & University of Bonn)

  • Thomas Hintermaier

    (Institute for Advanced Studies Vienna)

Consumer debt has increased substantially in the US since the 1980s. We show in a incomplete-markets model with durables and occasionally binding collateral constraints that neither the higher uninsurable income risk of US consumers nor the financial deregulation explain this increase. The reason is that uninsurable risk increases the buffer-stock saving motive and that agents who are at the collateral constraint find it optimal not to hold durables. We find instead that the observed fall in the real interest rate by 2 percentage points explains 92% of the actual increase in consumer debt.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2007 Meeting Papers with number 256.

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Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed007:256
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA
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  1. Giuseppe Bertola & Stefan Hochguertel & Winfried Koeniger, 2005. "Dealer Pricing Of Consumer Credit ," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 46(4), pages 1103-1142, November.
  2. Ricardo J. Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 2006. "An Equilibrium Model of Global Imbalances and Low Interest Rates," 2006 Meeting Papers 894, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Charles Himmelberg & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2005. "Assessing High House Prices: Bubbles, Fundamentals, and Misperceptions," NBER Working Papers 11643, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Sebastian Barnes & Garry Young, 2003. "The rise in US household debt: assessing its causes and sustainability," Bank of England working papers 206, Bank of England.
  5. Zvi Hercowitz & Jeffrey C. Campbell, 2005. "The Role of Collateralized Household Debt in Macroeconomic Stabilization," 2005 Meeting Papers 120, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae & Makoto Nakajima & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2002. "A Quantitative Theory of Unsecured Consumer Credit with Risk of Default," Centro de Alti­simos Estudios Ri­os Pe©rez(CAERP) 2, Centro de Altisimos Estudios Rios Perez (CAERP).
  7. Karl Schmedders, Felix Kubler, 2001. "Asset Pricing in Models with incomplete markets and default," Computing in Economics and Finance 2001 58, Society for Computational Economics.
  8. Aloisio Araujo & M�rio Rui P�scoa & Juan Pablo Torres-Mart�nez, 2002. "Collateral Avoids Ponzi Schemes in Incomplete Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1613-1638, July.
  9. Caporale, Tony & Grier, Kevin B, 2000. "Political Regime Change and the Real Interest Rate," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(3), pages 320-34, August.
  10. Krueger, Dirk & Perri, Fabrizio, 2005. "Does income inequality lead to consumption inequality? Evidence and theory," CFS Working Paper Series 2005/15, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  11. Deaton, Angus, 1991. "Saving and Liquidity Constraints," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(5), pages 1221-48, September.
  12. Joseph Gruber & Robert Martin, 2003. "Precautionary savings and the wealth distribution with illiquid durables," International Finance Discussion Papers 773, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  13. Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "A Theory of the Consumption Function, With and Without Liquidity Constraints (Expanded Version)," NBER Working Papers 8387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Jappelli, Tullio, 1990. "Who Is Credit Constrained in the U.S. Economy?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 219-34, February.
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