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Working Papers

November 2017, No. 17-14R

The Persistence of Financial Distress (Revised July 2018)

Kartik B. Athreya, José Mustre-del-Río and Juan M. Sanchez

Using proprietary panel data, we show that many US consumers experience financial distress (35% when distress is defined by severe delinquency, e.g.) at some point in their lives. However, most distress events are concentrated in a much smaller proportion of consumers in persistent trouble. While only 10% of consumers are distressed for more than a quarter of their lives, fewer than 10% of borrowers account for half of all distress events. These facts can be largely accountedfor in a straightforward extension of a workhorse model of defaultable debt with informal default that accommodates a simple form of heterogeneity in time preference, but not otherwise.


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