Household debt and business cycles worldwide

Atif Mian, Amir Sufi, Emil Verner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

285 Scopus citations


An increase in the household debt to GDP ratio predicts lower GDP growth and higher unemployment in the medium run for an unbalanced panel of 30 countries from 1960 to 2012. Low mortgage spreads are associated with an increase in the household debt to GDP ratio and a decline in subsequent GDP growth, highlighting the importance of credit supply shocks. Economic forecasters systematically overpredict GDP growth at the end of household debt booms, suggesting an important role of flawed expectations formation. The negative relation between the change in household debt to GDP and subsequent output growth is stronger for countries with less flexible exchange rate regimes. We also uncover a global household debt cycle that partly predicts the severity of the global growth slowdown after 2007. Countries with a household debt cycle more correlated with the global household debt cycle experience a sharper decline in growth after an increase in domestic household debt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1755-1817
Number of pages63
JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics


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