Modigliani Meets Minsky: Inequality, Debt, and Financial Fragility in America, 1950-2016
This paper studies the secular increase in U.S. household debt and its relation to growing income inequality and financial fragility. We exploit a new household-level data set that covers the joint distributions of debt, income, and wealth in the United States over the past seven decades. The data show that increased borrowing by middle-class families with low income growth played a central role in rising indebtedness. Debt-to-income ratios have risen most dramatically for households between the 50th and 90th percentiles of the income distribution. While their income growth was low, ...
Does Greater Inequality Lead to More Household Borrowing? New Evidence from Household Data
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 ...
Measuring student debt and its performance
Studies continue to indicate that higher education is frequently a worthwhile investment for individuals and that it raises the productivity of the workforce as a whole. While the rising cost of post-secondary education has not eliminated this "college premium," it has raised new questions about how growing numbers of students can make these investments. One solution to this problem is student loans, which have come to play an increasingly important role in financing higher education. Yet, despite its importance, educational debt is not well understood. Among the reasons is that there ...
The Effects of the Saving and Banking Glut on the U.S. Economy
We use a quantitative equilibrium model with houses, collateralized debt and foreign borrowing to study the impact of global imbalances on the U.S. economy in the 2000s. Our results suggest that the dynamics of foreign capital flows account for between one fourth and one third of the increase in U.S. house prices and household debt that preceded the financial crisis. The key to these findings is that the model generates the sustained low level of interest rates observed over that period.
Could Rising Household Debt Undercut China’s Economy?
Although there has been a notable deceleration in the pace of credit growth recently, the run-up in debt in China has been eye-popping, accounting for more than 60 percent of all new credit created globally over the past ten years. Rising nonfinancial sector debt was driven initially by an increase in corporate borrowing, which surged in 2009 in response to the global financial crisis. The most recent leg of China’s credit boom has been due to an important shift toward household lending. To better understand the rise in household debt in China and its implications for financial stability ...
Who Pays What First? Debt Prioritization during the COVID Pandemic
Since the depths of the Great Recession, household debt has increased from a low of $11 trillion in 2013 to more than $14 trillion in 2020 (see the New York Fed Household Debt and Credit Report). In this post, we examine how consumers’ repayment priorities have evolved over that time. Specifically, we seek to answer the following question: When consumers repay some but not all of their loans, which types do they choose to keep paying and which do they fall behind on?
Household leveraging and deleveraging
U.S. households' debt skyrocketed between 2000 and 2007, but has since been falling. This leveraging and deleveraging cycle cannot be accounted for by the liberalization and subsequent tightening of mortgage credit standards that occurred during the period. We base this conclusion on a quantitative dynamic general equilibrium model calibrated using macroeconomic aggregates and microeconomic data from the Survey of Consumer Finances. From the perspective of the model, the credit cycle is more likely due to factors that impacted house prices more directly, thus affecting the availability of ...
Just Released: A Look at Borrowing, Repayment, and Bankruptcy Rates by Age
Household debt balances increased in the third quarter of 2018, a seventeenth consecutive increase. Total debt balances reached $13.51 trillion, a level more than 20 percent above the trough reached in 2013, according to the latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. With today’s report we begin publishing a new set of charts that depict debt and repayment outcomes by the age of the borrower. The report and this analysis are based on the New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel (CCP), a 5 percent sample of anonymized Equifax ...
A simple model of subprime borrowers and credit growth
The surge in credit and house prices that preceded the Great Recession was particularly pronounced in ZIP codes with a higher fraction of subprime borrowers (Mian and Sufi 2009). We present a simple model of prime and subprime borrowers distributed across geographic locations, which can reproduce this stylized fact as a result of an expansion in the supply of credit. Owing to their low incomes, subprime households are constrained in their ability to meet interest payments and hence sustain debt. As a result, when the supply of credit increases and interest rates fall, they take on ...
Payback Time? Measuring Progress on Student Debt Repayment
Student debt continues to make headlines because of its high balances and high rates of delinquency and default?troubling issues that we discussed in our previous posts this week. A less prominent, but still important, issue is the pace at which former students are?or are not?paying off their debts. This issue is important to borrowers because the longer they take to repay their debts, the more interest they accrue, the longer they have to worry about making payments, and the longer they have to deal with the consequences of unpaid debts. It?s also important to the macroeconomy because longer ...