Household Leverage and the Recession of 2007 to 2009

53 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2010

See all articles by Atif R. Mian

Atif R. Mian

Princeton University - Department of Economics; Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; NBER

Amir Sufi

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; NBER

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2010

Abstract

We show that household leverage as of 2006 is a powerful statistical predictor of the severity of the 2007 to 2009 recession across U.S. counties. Counties in the U.S. that experienced a large increase in household leverage from 2002 to 2006 showed a sharp relative decline in durable consumption starting in the third quarter of 2006 - a full year before the official beginning of the recession in the fourth quarter of 2007. Similarly, counties with the highest reliance on credit card borrowing reduced durable consumption by significantly more following the financial crisis of the fall of 2008. Overall, our statistical model shows that household leverage growth and dependence on credit card borrowing as of 2006 explain a large fraction of the overall consumer default, house price, unemployment, residential investment, and durable consumption patterns during the recession. Our findings suggest that a focus on household finance may help elucidate the sources macroeconomic fluctuations.

Suggested Citation

Mian, Atif R. and Sufi, Amir, Household Leverage and the Recession of 2007 to 2009 (April 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w15896. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1586703

Atif R. Mian

Princeton University - Department of Economics ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

NBER

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Amir Sufi

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

NBER

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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