Economics at your fingertips  

How Risky is Australian Household Debt?

Jonathan Kearns, Mike Major and David Norman
Additional contact information
Mike Major: Reserve Bank of Australia
David Norman: Reserve Bank of Australia

RBA Research Discussion Papers from Reserve Bank of Australia

Abstract: Household indebtedness has increased substantially over several decades and across a range of countries. It is commonly cited as a major risk to numerous countries, including Australia. We consider how much risk this debt poses to Australia by asking three questions: (i) what accounts for the rise in household debt-to-income ratios and its level in Australia relative to other countries?; (ii) what losses might the Australian banking system suffer from these exposures in the event of a severe stress?; and (iii) how does household debt affect the sensitivity of consumption in Australia to severe economic shocks? Our results suggest that risks arising from Australian household indebtedness are more subtle than sometimes conveyed. In particular: fundamental factors (higher real incomes, a fall in nominal interest rates, financial liberalisation and household ownership of the rental stock) mostly account for the current level of household debt; banks appear resilient to a severe downturn thanks to moderate loan-to-valuation ratios on residential mortgages; and the distribution of debt does not appear to heighten wealth effects on consumption. However, there are risks. Our model cannot account for the increase in debt over the past four or five years. In addition, we demonstrate that a large but plausible fall in asset prices could lead to a substantial fall in consumption and that the increase in indebtedness over the past decade has slightly increased the potential loss of consumption during periods of financial stress.

Keywords: household debt; financial stability; stress testing; marginal propensity to consume; household survey data (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C15 D31 E44 G51 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mac and nep-rmg
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2) Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link) (application/pdf)

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link:

Access Statistics for this paper

More papers in RBA Research Discussion Papers from Reserve Bank of Australia Contact information at EDIRC.
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Paula Drew ().

Page updated 2021-10-15
Handle: RePEc:rba:rbardp:rdp2020-05