Financial Crisis, Creditor-Debtor Conflict, and Political Extremism
77 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2019 Last revised: 17 Apr 2019
Date Written: April 1, 2019
This paper studies the impact of debtor distress during a financial crisis on support for the populist far right. We use foreign currency borrowing of households in Hungary, combined with a large and unexpected exchange rate depreciation, as a natural experiment to generate a shock to household debt burdens. Exploiting zip code level variation in the prevalence of foreign currency household loans, we show that a 10 percentage point unexpected rise in debt-to-income increases the vote share of the far-right party Jobbik by 3 percentage points. Foreign currency debt exposure accounts for 20 percent of the overall rise in the far-right vote share, and the effect persists across multiple elections. This result is robust to a variety of alternative explanations for increased far-right support and is corroborated by survey data on debtors and far-right supporters. We present evidence that conflict between creditors and debtors over the resolution of the crisis is an important mechanism in the electoral success of the far right.
Keywords: far-right parties, political extremism, populism, financial crisis, household debt, foreign currency debt, creditor-debtor conflict
JEL Classification: D10, D72, E44, F34, G01
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