Credit, crises and inequality

Staff working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 12 November 2021

Staff Working Paper No. 949

By Jonathan Bridges, Georgina Green and Mark Joy

Using a panel dataset of 26 advanced economies over the five decades preceding the Covid crisis, we show that inequality rises following recessions and that rapid credit growth in the run up to a downturn exacerbates that effect. A one standard deviation credit boom leads to a 40% amplification of the distributional fallout in the bust that follows. These links between inequality, credit and downturns are particularly significant for recessions associated with financial crises. We also find some evidence that low bank capital ahead of a downturn amplifies the inequality increase that follows. These insights add a new dimension to policy cost-benefit analysis, at the distributional level. Newly established macroprudential regimes have been empowered with tools to safeguard financial stability by bolstering both lender and borrower resilience. Using those tools may have distributional effects, potentially limiting individual borrowing choices. Our findings make clear, however, that not using those tools can lead to distributional costs, in the event of an untamed crisis.

Credit, crises and inequality

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