Monetary Policy Pass-Through: Household Consumption and Voluntary Deleveraging
77 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2014 Last revised: 5 Dec 2014
Date Written: November 25, 2014
Do households benefit from expansionary monetary policy? We investigate how indebted households' consumption and saving decisions are affected by anticipated changes in monthly interest payments. We focus on borrowers with adjustable rate mortgages originated between 2005 and 2007 featuring an automatic reset of the interest rate after five years. The monthly payment due from the average borrower falls by 52 percent ($900) upon reset, resulting in an increase in disposable income totaling tens of thousands of dollars over the remaining life of the mortgage. We uncover three patterns. First, the average household increases monthly car purchases by 40 percent ($150) upon reset. Second, this expansionary effect is attenuated by the borrowers' voluntary deleveraging, as a significant fraction of the increased income is deployed to accelerate debt repayment. Third, the marginal propensity to consume is significantly higher for low income borrowers and for those that had experienced a larger decline in housing wealth. To complement these household-level findings, we employ county-level data to provide evidence that consumption responded more to a reduction in short-term interest rates in counties with a larger fraction of adjustable rate mortgage debt. Our results shed light on the income channel of monetary policy as well as the role of debt rigidity in reducing the effectiveness of monetary policy.
Keywords: Monetary policy, Household finance, Refinancing, Contract rigidities, Debt rigidity, MPC, deleveraging
JEL Classification: E20, E30, E51, G28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation