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The making of America's imbalances

  • Schularick, Moritz
  • Wachtel, Paul

This paper tracks the development of sectoral saving and borrowing in the US economy over the past 50 years. We show that the financial imbalances that erupted in the financial crisis of 2008 were long in the making and preceded the emergence of global imbalances in the 2000s. The record low household savings rate in the past decade was the product of two separate trends: a sharp fall in the asset acquisition of American households in the 1990s, and an explosion of mortgage borrowing in the 2000s. We present novel disaggregated estimates of the wealth effect on savings. We show that households reduce active savings in response to gains in financial wealth and increase borrowing with rising housing wealth. Finally, we argue that the American credit boom of the 2000s had few direct links to reserve accumulation in emerging markets. The mortgage boom was financed by the US financial sector which intermediated foreign funds from private sources.

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Paper provided by Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 2012/16.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:fubsbe:201216
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  1. Moritz Schularick, 2005. "A Tale Of Two “Globalizations”: Capital Flows From Rich To Poor In Two Eras Of Global Finance," Economic History 0509001, EconWPA.
  2. Gorton, Gary & Metrick, Andrew, 2012. "Securitized banking and the run on repo," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(3), pages 425-451.
  3. Case Karl E. & Quigley John M. & Shiller Robert J., 2005. "Comparing Wealth Effects: The Stock Market versus the Housing Market," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-34, May.
  4. F. Thomas Juster & Joseph P. Lupton & James P. Smith & Frank Stafford, 2006. "The Decline in Household Saving and the Wealth Effect," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 20-27, February.
  5. Maurice Obstfeld, 2012. "Does the Current Account Still Matter?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 1-23, May.
  6. Alan Greenspan & James Kennedy, 2007. "Sources and uses of equity extracted from homes," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. Hetschko, Clemens & Quint, Dominic & Thye, Marius, 2012. "Nationale Schuldenbremsen für die Länder der Europäischen Union: Taugt das deutsche Modell als Vorbild?," Discussion Papers 2012/12, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
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