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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
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed007:256
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Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/
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  1. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2005. "Does income inequality lead to consumption equality? evidence and theory," Staff Report 363, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. 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.
  3. Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "A Theory of the Consumption Function, with and without Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 23-45, Summer.
  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. Páscoa, Mario Rui & Araújo, Aloísio Pessoa de & Torres-Martínez, Juan Pablo, 2001. "Collateral Avoids Ponzi Schemes in Incomplete Markets," Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 419, FGV/EPGE Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
  7. Ricardo J Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 2006. "An equilibrum model of "global imbalances" and low interest rates," BIS Working Papers 222, Bank for International Settlements.
  8. Charles Himmelberg & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2005. "Assessing High House Prices: Bubbles, Fundamentals and Misperceptions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 67-92, Fall.
  9. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae & Makoto Nakajima & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2007. "A quantitative theory of unsecured consumer credit with risk of default," Working Papers 07-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  10. 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.
  11. Deaton, A., 1989. "Saving And Liquidity Constraints," Papers 153, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  12. Tullio Jappelli, 1990. "Who is Credit Constrained in the U. S. Economy?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 219-234.
  13. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-684.
  14. 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.
  15. Joseph W. Gruber & Robert F. 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.).
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