PurposeThe paper aims to investigate the impact of financial liabilities on households’ holdings of financial assets. The debt-to-income ratio of the household sector increased from 75 per cent in 2000 to 99 per cent in 2010 in the euro area on average, and the rapid accumulation of household debt has induced the need to study how indebtedness affects the behaviour of households beyond their borrowing decisions.Design/methodology/approachThe paper uses the first wave of the Household Finance and Consumption Survey from 2009-2010 covering euro area countries. The paper estimates a system of equations for households’ financial liabilities and assets, taking account of endogeneity and selection bias.FindingsThe results indicate that higher household liabilities are related to lower holdings of financial assets. The results are confirmed by a large number of robustness tests. The findings support the hypothesis that credit availability reduces precautionary savings as income shocks can be smoothed by borrowing, meaning fewer assets are held for self-insurance against consumption risk.Practical implicationsThe results are obtained from a recession period when households faced aggregate shocks, whereas credit constraints were tighter than during good times. The implications of lower incentives to keep financial assets by indebted households is that they are actually more vulnerable to aggregate shocks, as they have fewer resources available when they are hit by a negative shock.Originality/valueThis is the first paper to investigate the effect of liabilities on financial assets using household level data. The paper takes a holistic view and models financial assets and liabilities jointly while controlling for endogeneity and selection bias.
Studies in Economics and Finance – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 5, 2017