Rising levels of household indebtedness have created concerns about the vulnerabilities of households to adverse economic shocks and the impact on financial stability. To assess these risks, the author presents a formal stress-testing framework that uses microdata to simulate how various economic shocks affect the distribution of the debt-service ratio (DSR) for the household sector.
In this article, the authors build on the framework used in the Bank of Canada's Financial System Review to assess the evolution of household indebtedness and financial vulnerabilities in response to changing economic conditions. To achieve this, they first compare two microdata sets generated by Ipsos Reid's Canadian Financial Monitor and Statistics Canada's Survey of Financial Security. They find that the surveys are broadly comparable, despite methodological differences. This enables them to use the combined information content for the identification of the threshold value of the debt-service ratio (DSR). The article then presents an innovative framework that uses household-level microdata to simulate changes in the distribution of the DSR under various stress scenarios. The authors show how this framework can be used by analyzing the effects of two different scenarios on the distribution of the debt-service ratio and the impact on vulnerable households. This tool will enable researchers to refine their analyses of current risks to the financial health of Canadian households. The article concludes with comments on future directions for refining the Bank's analyses of household sector risk.