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Household Financial Distress and the Burden of “Aggregate” Shocks

Kartik Athreya (), Ryan Mather, Jose Mustre-del-Rio () and Juan Sanchez

No 2019-025, Working Papers from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Abstract: The goal of this paper is to show that household-level financial distress (FD) varies greatly, meaning there is unequal exposure to macroeconomic risk, and that FD can increase macroeconomic vulnerability. To do this, we first establish three facts: (i) regions in the U.S. vary significantly in their "FD-intensity," measured either by how much additional credit households therein can access, or in how delinquent they typically are on debts, (ii) shocks that are typically viewed as "aggregate" in nature hit geographic areas quite differently, and (iii) FD is an economic "preexisting condition": the share of an aggregate shock borne by a region is positively correlated with the level of FD present at the time of the shock. Using an empirically disciplined and institutionally rich model of consumer debt and default, we show that in the shocks dealt by the Great Recession and in the initial months in the COVID-19 pandemic, FD mattered. Our model implies that the uneven distribution of FD creates widely varying consumption responses to shocks. This is true even when subjecting regions with differing levels of FD to the same shocks.

Keywords: Mortgage; Bankruptcy; Recession; Geography; Delinquency; Financial Distress; Consumption; Credit Card Debt; Foreclosure (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D31 D58 E21 E44 G11 G12 G21 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 75 pages
Date: 2019-09-17, Revised 2020-09-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ban, nep-dge, nep-mac and nep-ure
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Related works:
Working Paper: Household Financial Distress and the Burden of ‘Aggregate’ Shocks (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Household Financial Distress and the Burden of 'Aggregate' Shocks (2020) Downloads
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DOI: 10.20955/wp.2019.025

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