In the years preceding the Great Recession there was a dramatic rise in household debt in the US, and an increase in import competition triggered by the expansion of China and other low-wage countries. This column uses consumer credit data to argue that these phenomena are intimately linked. Household debt levels increased significantly in counties where US manufacturing jobs shifted overseas, and regional exposure to import competition explains 30% of the cross-regional variation in the growth in household debt.
Jean-Noël Barrot, Erik Loualiche, Matthew Plosser, Julien Sauvagnat, 21 October 2016
Fredrik Andersson, Lars Jonung, 30 May 2016
The volume of credit to Swedish households has grown twice as fast as incomes since the mid-1990s. This has resulted in both rising house prices and rising household debt. This column argues that these trends expose Sweden to important economic vulnerabilities. Curbing these vulnerabilities will require prompt action by the authorities.
James Cloyne, Clodomiro Ferreira, Paolo Surico, 21 April 2016
Monetary policy has significantly heterogeneous effects on private consumption, which depend on the household's debt and balance sheet position. This column suggests that households with mortgage debt behave in a liquidity-constrained manner, while those without are far less sensitive to movements in interest rates. Though the direct channel of monetary transmission – i.e. the movement in interest cash flows – also affects the expenditure of mortgagors, most of the aggregate effect comes via the stimulus to the income of all housing tenure groups.
Philip Bunn, May Rostom, 12 January 2015
A number of US studies have found a link between high pre-crisis debt and weak consumption after the recent financial crisis. This column investigates the relationship between household debt and consumption in the UK. Spending cuts associated with debt are estimated to have reduced the level of aggregate private consumption by around 2% after 2007, unwinding the faster growth in spending by highly indebted households, relative to other households, before the financial crisis.
Òscar Jordà, Alan Taylor, Moritz Schularick, 12 October 2014
The Global Crisis prompted Lord Adair Turner to ask if the growth of the financial sector has been socially useful, catalysing an ongoing debate. This column turns to economic history to investigate whether the financial sector is too big. New long-run, disaggregated data on banks’ balance sheets show that mortgage lending by banks has been the driving force behind the financialisation of advanced economies. Real estate lending booms are chiefly responsible for financial crises and weak recoveries.
Bruno Albuquerque, Ursel Baumann, Georgi Krustev, 18 April 2014
Household deleveraging in the US has impeded consumption and market activity in recent years, holding back the recovery. Despite substantial progress in balance sheet repair, a key question is whether deleveraging has ended or whether further adjustment is needed. This column presents time-varying equilibrium estimates of the household debt-to-income ratio determined by economic fundamentals. Taking into account the latest available data, the estimates suggest that the household deleveraging process may have ended at the end of 2013.
Scott Ross Baker, 19 January 2014
The dramatic fall in consumption during the Great Recession was accompanied by an equally dramatic increase in household debt in the years preceding it. This column examines the relationship between household debt and consumption behaviour, and the channels through which this link operates. The column concludes that the relationship is driven almost entirely by the presence of financial constraints, such as liquidity or borrowing limits.
Lars Svensson, 04 September 2013
The Riksbank maintains high policy rates since it fears that a lower rate would increase the household-debt ratio. This column argues that a higher rate in fact leads to a higher debt ratio, not a lower one. The higher rate reduces nominal housing prices and new mortgages, but since the new mortgages are such a small share of total mortgages, the total nominal debt falls very slowly. Yet nominal GDP falls much faster, so the debt-to-GDP ratio rises.