Using a unique micro-dataset containing real and financial information on Canadian households for 2000–07, the authors address two questions: (1) What is the proportion of households whose consumption displays excess sensitivity to income, and who are likely liquidity constrained?
Similar to the experiences in many other countries, household indebtedness in Canada has exhibited an upward trend over the past 30 years. Both mortgage and non-mortgage (consumer) credit have contributed to this development. In this article, the authors use microdata to highlight the main factors underlying the strong trend increase since the late 1990s. Favourable housing affordability, owing to factors such as income growth and low interest rates, has supported significant increases in home-ownership rates and mortgage debt. Much of the rise in consumer credit has been facilitated by higher housing values (used as collateral for loans) and financial innovation that makes it easier for households to access this credit.
The lack of consolidated Canadian micro data on household balance sheets and expenditures has been an important impediment to empirical research into real-financial linkages in the Canadian household sector. Our paper attempts to fill this data gap by merging household balance sheet data from the Canadian Financial Monitor survey with household expenditure data from the Survey of Household Spending.
The household debt-to-disposable income ratio in Canada increased from 110 per cent in 1999 to 127 per cent in 2007. This increase has raised questions about the ability of households to service their increased debt if faced with a negative economic or socio-economic shock.