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RWP 20-13, September 2020; updated January 2024

This paper investigates how, and how much, household financial distress (FD), arising from allowing debts to go unpaid, matters for the aggregate and cross-sectional consumption responses to macroeconomic risk. Through a battery of structural models, we show that FD can affect consumption responses through three channels: (1) as another margin of adjustment to shocks (direct channel); (2) because its persistence implies a significant degree of preference heterogeneity (indirect channel); and (3) because it can exacerbate macroeconomic risks whenever it is more severe in the hardest-hit regions, as evinced by the last two recessions (correlation channel). We find that all channels shape cross-sectional differences in the response of consumption to shocks. However, only the direct and indirect channels matter in the aggregate.

JEL Classification: D31, D58, E21, E44, G11, G12, G21

Article Citation

  • Athreya, Kartik, Ryan Mather, José Mustre-del-Río, and Juan M. Sánchez. 2024. “The Effects of Macroeconomic Shocks: Household Financial Distress Matters.” Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Research Working Paper no. 20-13, January. Available at External Link

Note: Previous versions of this RWP from September 2020 and October 2021 were titled "Household Financial Distress and the Burden of "Aggregate" Shocks" and "Financial Distress and Macroeconomic Risks".


José Mustre-del-Río

Research and Policy Officer

José Mustre-del-Río is a Research and Policy Officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He joined the Economic Research Department in August 2011. Prior to joining the d…