Saturday, November 8, 2014: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Jemez (Convention Center)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Lawrence Berger, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Panel Chairs: Leah Gjertson, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Discussants: Laura Tach, Cornell University
Household debt in the United States increased dramatically during the past four decades. The onset of the housing crisis and Great Recession brought attention to the various risks associated with high levels of household debt and underscored that debt has become increasingly difficult for many American families to repay. These factors prompted regulatory reforms in state and federal laws governing mortgages, consumer (largely credit card) debt, subprime lending, and bankruptcy. They also generated widespread concern among scholars and policymakers about the effects of debt accumulation on the economic and social functioning and wellbeing of individuals and families. Yet, limited research has examined the precursors to and consequences of debt accumulation. As such, we know little about the determinants of particular types and levels of household debt and how they may influence ongoing economic and social functioning both across the life course and among various population subgroups. On the one hand, debt offers the ability to finance (or smooth) consumption and to make human capital and other investments that are expected to yield future benefits. At the same time, however, taking on debt entails future economic obligations, potentially adding to stress and restricting future consumption and prospects. This panel will explore the determinants and distribution of various forms of debt held by households and how particular types and levels of debt might influence functioning and wellbeing at various stages of life. The papers will help policy makers gain insight into the potential implications of regulation of consumer debt and access to credit, how individuals and households use debt, and how debt influences individuals and households over time.