The Decline of Secured Debt

93 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2020

See all articles by Efraim Benmelech

Efraim Benmelech

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Nitish Kumar

University of Florida

Raghuram G. Rajan

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; International Monetary Fund (IMF); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 31, 2019

Abstract

We document a steady decline in the share of secured debt issued (as a fraction of total debt) in the United States over the twentieth century, with some pickup in this century. Superimposed on this secular trend, the share of secured debt issued is countercyclical. The secular decline in secured debt issuance seems to result from creditors acquiring greater confidence over time that the priority of their debt claims will be respected even if they do not obtain security up front. Borrowers also do not seem to want to lose financial and operational flexibility by giving security up front. Instead, security is given on a contingent basis – when a firm approaches distress. Similar arguments explain why debt is more likely to be secured in the down phase of a cycle than in the up phase, thus accounting for the cyclicality of secured debt share.

Keywords: Corporate Finance, Development of the American Economy, Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Law and Economics

JEL Classification: G32, K22, N12

Suggested Citation

Benmelech, Efraim and Kumar, Nitish and Rajan, Raghuram G., The Decline of Secured Debt (December 31, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3512974 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3512974

Efraim Benmelech

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

Evanston, IL 60208
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Nitish Kumar

University of Florida ( email )

Gainesville, FL 32611
United States

Raghuram G. Rajan (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-4437 (Phone)
773-702-0458 (Fax)

International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( email )

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Washington, DC 20431
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
773-702-9299 (Phone)
773-702-0458 (Fax)

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