Regulating Household Leverage

53 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2017  

Date Written: October 1, 2017


This paper studies how credit markets respond to policy constraints on household leverage. Exploiting a sharp policy-induced discontinuity in the cost of originating certain high-leverage mortgages, we study how the Dodd-Frank "Ability-to-Repay" rule affected the price and availability of credit in the U.S. mortgage market. Our estimates show that the policy had only moderate effects on prices, increasing interest rates on affected loans by 10-15 basis points. The effect on quantities, however, was significantly larger; we estimate that the policy eliminated 15 percent of the affected market completely and reduced leverage for another 20 percent of remaining borrowers. This reduction in quantities is much greater than would be implied by plausible demand elasticities and suggests that lenders responded to the policy primarily by rationing credit. Finally, while the policy succeeded in reducing leverage, our estimates suggest this effect would have only slightly reduced aggregate default rates during the housing crisis.

Keywords: Household Leverage, Financial Regulation, Macroprudential Policy, Mortgage Markets

JEL Classification: G18, D14, D18, E60, R30

Suggested Citation

DeFusco, Anthony and Johnson, Stephanie and Mondragon, John, Regulating Household Leverage (October 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Anthony DeFusco (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2211 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
United States


Stephanie Johnson

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

John Mondragon

Northwestern University ( email )

Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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