DP9238 | Household Debt and Social Interactions

Publication Date

02/12/2012

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Abstract

Debt-induced crises, including the subprime crisis, are usually attributed exclusively to supply-side factors. We examine the role of social influences on debt culture, emanating from perceived average income of peers. Utilizing unique information from a household survey, representative of the Dutch population, that circumvents the issue of defining the social circle, we consider collateralized, consumer, and informal loans. We find robust social effects on borrowing - especially among those who consider themselves poorer than their peers - and on indebtedness, suggesting a link to financial distress. We employ a number of approaches to rule out spurious associations and to handle correlated effects.