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Household Credit and Local Economic Uncertainty

Marco Di Maggio, Amir Kermani, Rodney Ramcharan and Edison Yu
This paper investigates the impact of uncertainty on consumer credit outcomes. Individual-level data on credit-card balances and mortgages reveal strong borrower-specific heterogeneity in response to changes in an equity-based measure of county-level economic uncertainty. Low-risk borrowers reduce their credit-card balances and use of mortgage credit in response to increased localized uncertainty, while lenders expand the availability of credit to these borrowers. The opposite is obtained for high-risk borrowers. The economic magnitudes are especially large during the recent financial crisis. This evidence suggests that localized uncertainty about economic conditions might independently affect aggregate economic activity through consumer credit markets.