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Counterintuitive response to tax incentives? Mortgage interest deductions and the demand for debt

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    A number of European countries changed their tax system in the early 1990s along the lines of the US tax reform act of 1986. After the reforms marginal tax rates were generally lower, and mortgage interest deductions less generous. At the same time a long period of house appreciation started in most countries. This paper considers this puzzle empirically using a rich data base of Norwegian tax records from 1986 to 2000. We use nonparametric, difference in difference and tobit approaches in attempt to control for a wide array of factors that may offset, or mask, response to changed incentives. Of special concern is possible credit constrains as implied by credit score models routinely applied by credit institutions. We find a surprisingly static relationship between the probability of debt across age groups, and a strikingly linear and unchanged relationship between debt and gross income for young households. After the reform house prices doubled and tripled. The wealth effect may spur consumption. We find no sign of consumption smoothing by using self-owned housing as debt collateral, not even for older households. On the contrary, older households did react to the reform by reducing real debt.

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    File URL: http://www.ssb.no/a/publikasjoner/pdf/DP/dp492.pdf
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    Paper provided by Statistics Norway, Research Department in its series Discussion Papers with number 492.

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    Date of creation: Jan 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:ssb:dispap:492
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    1. Case, Karl E & Shiller, Robert J, 1989. "The Efficiency of the Market for Single-Family Homes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 125-37, March.
    2. Rudebusch, G.D. & Svensson, L.E.O., 1998. "Policy Rules for Inflation Targeting," Papers 637, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
    3. Chiuri, Maria Concetta & Jappelli, Tullio, 2003. "Financial market imperfections and home ownership: A comparative study," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(5), pages 857-875, October.
    4. Ortalo-Magne, Francois & Rady, Sven, 1999. "Boom in, bust out: Young households and the housing price cycle," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 755-766, April.
    5. Satchell, Steve & Timmermann, Allan, 1995. "On the optimality of adaptive expectations: Muth revisited," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 407-416, September.
    6. Shiller, Robert J, 1990. "Speculative Prices and Popular Models," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 55-65, Spring.
    7. Jappelli, Tullio & Pistaferri, Luigi, 2007. "Do people respond to tax incentives? An analysis of the Italian reform of the deductibility of home mortgage interests," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 247-271, February.
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