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Does Greater Inequality Lead to More Household Borrowing? New Evidence from Household Data

Author

Listed:
  • Yuriy Gorodnichenko

    (UC Berkeley)

  • Marianna Kudlyak

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond)

  • John Mondragon

    (UC Berkeley)

  • Olivier Coibion

    (UT Austin)

Abstract

One suggested hypothesis for the dramatic rise in household borrowing that preceded the financial crisis is that low-income households increased their demand for credit to finance higher consumption expenditures in order to "keep up" with higher-income households. Using household level data on debt accumulation during 2001-2012, we show that low-income households in high-inequality regions accumulated less debt relative to income than their counterparts in lower-inequality regions, which negates the hypothesis. We argue instead that these patterns are consistent with supply-side interpretations of debt accumulation patterns during the 2000s. We present a model in which banks use applicants’ incomes, combined with local income inequality, to infer the underlying type of the applicant, so that banks ultimately channel more credit toward lower-income applicants in low-inequality regions than high-inequality regions. We confirm the predictions of the model using data on individual mortgage applications in high- and low-inequality regions over this time period.

Suggested Citation

  • Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Marianna Kudlyak & John Mondragon & Olivier Coibion, 2014. "Does Greater Inequality Lead to More Household Borrowing? New Evidence from Household Data," 2014 Meeting Papers 402, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed014:402
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E51 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Money Supply; Credit; Money Multipliers
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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