A large-scale reduction in mortgage principal can strengthen a recovery, support house prices and lower foreclosures. The nature of the intervention shapes its impact, which rests on how resources are redistributed across households. The availability of bankruptcy on unsecured debt changes the response to large-scale mortgage relief by reducing precautionary savings.
We examine the role of debt in amplifying and propagating recessions. Firms’ debt adjustment makes recessions deeper but makes expansions gradual. In particular, when the aggregate business leverage is ten percentage points above average, the half-life of the recovery doubles.