Household Debt and the European Crisis

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Ales Chmelar

The fall in economic output all over Europe since 2008 has had important consequences for household liabilities. Major growth in demand and supply for household credit products has generated an increase in household debt, which contributed to growth rates during the pre-crisis period but – in some countries – became household-debt overhangs and helped inflate asset bubbles.

In the run-up to the crisis, long-term economic lessons and theories were often overlooked and signs that the economic situation could worsen were ignored. Although not at the core of the crisis, household debt had important consequences for macroeconomic stability, robustness of growth and the depth of recessions. The last ten years in Europe have demonstrated the typical final stage of a household debt cycle: rapid increase and abrupt retrenchment. Widely varying outcomes across Europe enable us to consider the causes of the rapid growth in household debt and draw theoretical lessons that can help policy-makers and academics devise a coherent regulatory response to avoid extremes of the debt cycle in future.