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Title:Do we know what we owe? A comparison of borrower- and lender-reported consumer debt PDF Logo
Authors:Brown, Meta
Haughwout, Andrew
Lee, Donghoon
van der Klaauw, Wilbert
Issue Date:2011
Series/Report no.:Staff Report, Federal Reserve Bank of New York 523
Abstract:Household surveys are the source of some of the most widely studied data on consumer balance sheets, with the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) generally cited as the leading source of wealth data for the United States. At the same time, recent research questions survey respondents' propensity and ability to report debt characteristics accurately. We compare household debt as reported by borrowers to the SCF with household debt as reported by lenders to Equifax using the new FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel (CCP). Moments of the borrower and lender debt distributions are compared by year, age of household head, household size, and region of the country, in total and across five standard debt categories. The debt reports are strikingly similar, with one noteworthyexception: the aggregate credit card debt implied by SCF borrowers' reports is less than 50 percent of the aggregate credit card debt implied by CCP lenders' reports. Adjustmentsfor sample representativeness and for small business and convenience uses of credit cards raise SCF credit card debt to somewhere between 52 and 66 percent of the CCP figure. Despite the credit card debt mismatch, bankruptcy history is reported comparably in the borrower and lender sources, indicating that not all stigmatized consumer behaviors are underreported.
Subjects:consumer debt
measurement
JEL:G20
D14
D31
Document Type:Working Paper
Appears in Collections:Staff Reports, Federal Reserve Bank of New York

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