Tag Archives: Household wealth

Previous Cohorts’ Household Debt Was Much Lower

In a blog post, May Rostom documents that “secured debt is rising super-fast for the young.”

Over the life cycle, each generation accumulates household debt until reaching age forty or fifty, and repays afterwards. But the level of indebtedness (in real terms) has increased from cohort to cohort, and peak indebtedness has shifted to older age. The amplitude of the income paths has not changed to the same extent—“income growth has been unable to keep up with the pace of house price inflation.” Moreover, while “the younger groups have taken the lion’s share of the increase in debt from 1995-2012, … the biggest winners [when it comes to wealth accumulation] have been the older generations.”

Non-Neutral Helicopter Drops

In an August 2014 Economics article, Willem Buiter discussed the conditions for a Friedman-type helicopter drop of money to be effective.

First, there must be benefits from holding fiat base money other than its pecuniary rate of return. Only then will base money be willingly held despite being dominated as a store of value … Second, fiat base money is irredeemable: it is view[ed] as an asset by the holder but not as a liability by the issuer. … Third, the price of money is positive.

Deflation … are therefore unnecessary. They are policy choices. This effectiveness result holds when the economy is away from the zero lower bound (ZLB), at the ZLB for a limited time period or at the ZLB forever.

The feature of irredeemable base money that is key … is that the acceptance of payment in base money by the government to a private agent constitutes a final settlement … It leaves the private agent without any further claim on the government, now or in the future. The helicopter money drop effectiveness issue is closely related to the question as to whether State-issued fiat money is net wealth for the private sector, despite being technically an ‘inside asset’ …

… because of its irredeemability, state-issued fiat money is indeed net wealth to the private sector … even after the intertemporal budget constraint of the State (which includes the Central Bank) has been consolidated with that of the household sector.

Wealth Inequality, Theory and Measurement

In an NBER working paper, David Weil argues that Thomas Piketty overestimates wealth inequality. In the abstract of the paper, Weil writes:

In Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty uses the market value of tradeable assets to measure both productive capital and wealth. As a measure of wealth this is problematic because it ignores the value of human capital and transfer wealth, which have grown enormously over the last 300 years. Thus the constancy of the wealth/income ratio as portrayed in his data is an illusion. Further, the types of wealth that he does not measure are more equally distributed than tradeable assets. The approach also incorrectly identifies capital gains due to reduced discount rates as increases in the capital stock.


Household Balance Sheets in the Euro Area

The ECB has published the results of the Eurosystem’s first Household Finance and Consumption Survey. Some results:

  • About 60% of households in the euro area own their main residence—with or without a mortgage. About 11% own a business, and 76% own vehicles.
  • 97% of households own sight deposits or savings accounts. Some (33%) hold voluntary private pensions or life insurance and few (15%) own other financial assets. Only a quarter of households in the top income quintile holds mutual funds; also, a quarter of households in the top income quintile holds publicly traded shares.
  • 23% of households have mortgage debt and 29% have non-mortgage debt. Conditional on having debt, the median value is Euro 68400 and Euro 5000, respectively.

Here are the mean and median net wealth statistics by country and socioeconomic characteristic.