Household Debt and Defaults from 2000 to 2010: The Credit Supply View
49 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2015 Last revised: 17 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 16, 2016
During the first decade of the 21st century, the United States witnessed a dramatic rise in household debt followed by a severe default crisis. In this study, we review the existing literature and provide new evidence supporting the credit supply view of the episode, which holds that an increase in credit supply unrelated to fundamental improvements in income or productivity was the shock that initiated the household debt boom and bust. The credit supply view is supported by four facts: First, from 2002 to 2005, there was an expansion of mortgage credit supply that was independent of improved economic circumstances. This can most easily be seen in the increased number of mortgages for home purchase originated to marginal households, or households that previously were routinely denied mortgage credit. Second, the expansion in mortgage credit supply increased house prices. Third, existing homeowners responded to rising house prices by borrowing aggressively out of home equity; such borrowing was prevalent in all but the top 20% of the credit score distribution and was the primary driver of the rise in aggregate household debt. Fourth, the default crisis was driven mainly by lower credit score individuals. The view that credit played only a passive role in explaining the rise in household debt and the subsequent default crisis is inconsistent with the evidence.
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