Understanding the Macro-Financial Effects of Household Debt: A Global Perspective


Adrian Alter ; Alan Xiaochen Feng ; Nico Valckx

Publication Date:

April 6, 2018

Electronic Access:

Free Download. Use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this PDF file

Disclaimer: IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.


We confirm the negative relationship between household debt and future GDP growth documented in Mian, Sufi, and Verner (2017) for a wider set of countries over the period 1950–2016. Three mutually reinforcing mechanisms help explain this relationship. First, debt overhang impairs household consumption when negative shocks hit. Second, increases in household debt heighten the probability of future banking crises, which significantly disrupts financial intermediation. Third, crash risk may be systematically neglected due to investors’ overoptimistic expectations associated with household debt booms. In addition, several institutional factors such as flexible exchange rates, higher financial development and inclusion are found to mitigate this impact. Finally, the tradeoff between financial inclusion and stability nuances downside risks to growth.


Working Paper No. 2018/076



Publication Date:

April 6, 2018



Stock No:




Please address any questions about this title to publications@imf.org