Panel Paper: Surveying the Aftermath of the Storm: Changes In Family Finances From 2007 to 2009

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 3:30 PM
International C (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jesse Bricker1, Brian Bucks2, Arthur Kennickell1, Traci Mach1 and Kevin Moore3, (1)Federal Reserve Board of Governors, (2)Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, (3)Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

This paper provides a look at the changes in families’ finances captured in the 2007–2009 SCF panel along with a first look at the changes in families’ finances observed in the 2010 SCF.  The panel data allow us to examine how the effects of changes in the value of specific types of assets and debts and other economic disturbances played out at the household level.  The data also allow us to consider the potential longer-term consequences of the financial crisis on families’ decisions and expectations.  The 2010 SCF allows an in-depth analysis of financial changes between 2007 and 2010.   

The broad contours of changes in households’ assets, debts, and wealth align with changes in the corresponding aggregate measures, but the microdata from the panel highlight the substantial variation in families’ experiences between 2007 and 2009.  Although over 60 percent of families saw their wealth decline over the two-year period, a sizable fraction of households experienced gains in wealth, while some families’ financial situation changed little, at least on net.  The shifts in wealth do not appear to be correlated in a simple way with families’ characteristics: instead, the pattern of mixed losses, gains, and modest shifts in wealth across families generally holds within groups defined by demographic characteristics or by 2007 wealth or income.

On the whole, changes in wealth appear to stem from changes in asset values more so than changes in the composition of families’ portfolios or their outstanding debt, though, again, the results vary across households.   As might be expected, changes in the values of homes, stock, and business equity appear to have been particularly important determinants of changes in many families’ wealth.  The economic experiences of families that might have been seen as financially vulnerable in 2007, by and large, did not differ dramatically from those of other families, except for families with high debt payments relative to income, who were more likely to have had comparatively large declines in wealth.  Finally, at least overall, families appear more cautious in 2009 than two years earlier, as most families reported increased levels of desired buffer savings, and many expressed concern over future income and employment.

Full Paper: