Fueling the Credit Crisis: Who Uses Consumer Credit and What Drives Debt Burden?

Document Type


Publication Date



Excessive household debt contributed to the worst recession in decades. Insights about borrowing and spending behavior can inform economic recovery forecasts, policy decisions, and financial education. This study identifies life cycle and credit attitude as key determinants of who uses debt. Younger households are more likely to borrow for consumption, as are those who believe that it is all right to borrow to purchase luxury goods or cover living expenses. Furthermore, households that condone borrowing for these purposes have a higher consumer debt burden. Debt capacity (or creditworthiness) and financial discipline are also significant factors in determining household debt use.