IZA DP No. 9572: Unemployment Risk and Over-Indebtedness: A Micro-Econometric Perspective
published as: European Central Bank Working Papers, 2016, No. 1908
We study how unemployment effects the over-indebtedness of households using the new European Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS). First, we assess the role of different labor market statuses (i.e. employed, unemployed, disabled, retired, etc.) and other household characteristics (i.e. demographics, housing status, household wealth and income, etc.) to determine the likelihood of over-indebtedness. We explore these relationships both at the Euro area level and through country-specific regressions. This approach captures country-specific institutional effects concerning all the different factors which can explain household indebtedness in its most severe form. We also examine the role that each country's legal and economic institutions play in explaining these differences. The results of the regressions across all countries show that the odds of being over-indebted are much higher in households where the reference person is unemployed. These odds ratios remain fairly stable across different over-indebtedness indicators and specifications. Interestingly, we find similar results for secured debt only. Turning to country specific results, the role of unemployment varies widely across countries. In Spain, France or Portugal, for example, the odds ratio for the unemployed group is just below 2, whereas in Austria, Belgium, or Italy the odds ratio is higher than 4. Secondly, we situate the analysis in a macro-micro frame to identify households and countries that are especially vulnerable to adverse macroeconomic shocks in the labor market. For the Euro area, we find that the percentage of households plagued by over-indebtedness increased by more than 10%, suggesting that another unemployment shock could have a major impact on the financial solvency of Euro area households. Finally, the impact of this shock on single-headed households is much higher than on couple-headed ones.