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Inequality, Consumer Credit and the Saving Puzzle

Christopher Brown, Professor of Economics, Arkansas State University, US
Providing much needed context for current events like the sub-prime mortgage crisis, this timely book presents a vision of an economy evolved to greater dependence on consumer credit and analyzes the trade-offs and risks associated with it. While synthesizing the Keynesian theory of consumption with the Institutional theory of habit selection (brought up to date with new knowledge from evolutionary biology and neuroscience), this book represents an in-depth treatment of the macroeconomic dimensions of consumer credit and implications of recent financial innovations from a non-traditional economic approach.
Extent: 200 pp
Hardback Price: $127.00 Web: $114.30
Publication Date: 2008
ISBN: 978 1 84720 509 4
Availability: In Stock
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Institutional Economics
  • Post-Keynesian Economics
Providing much needed context for current events like the sub-prime mortgage crisis, this timely book presents a vision of an economy evolved to greater dependence on consumer credit and analyzes the trade-offs and risks associated with it. While synthesizing the Keynesian theory of consumption with the Institutional theory of habit selection (brought up to date with new knowledge from evolutionary biology and neuroscience), this book represents an in-depth treatment of the macroeconomic dimensions of consumer credit and implications of recent financial innovations from a non-traditional economic approach.

Some of the effects of consumer credit dependence include the potential for illiquidity in markets for debt-collateralized securities, sub-prime contagion, or the possibility of a Minsky-type debt deflation episode. The author also argues that a sharp increase in borrowing by US households over the past 20 years, aided by financial innovations such as the securitization of consumer loans and sub-prime lending, have lessened the harmful consequences of income inequality, and that the collapse of personal saving after 1993 is actually a gradual trend of consumer habits conforming to the imperatives of corporatism.

The book’s primary audience will be academic economists in sympathy with heterodox and pluralist approaches. It sets forth an institutional or ‘top-down’ theory of household spending behavior that should be of interest to readers in fields such as sociology, consumer or family studies, psychology, or anthropology. Much of the book is technically accessible for non-economists and students.
‘. . . provides an excellent example of economic analysis using atypical analytical approaches. . . the book is very accessible, especially to readers with some grounding in economics. Mathematical models and empirical evidence are appropriately used and the writing is superb. Advanced undergraduates and graduate students should be able to follow the analysis and will benefit from seeing the alternative analytics at work. Of course economists of all stripes will find something useful in this book as will anyone with a strong interest in understanding the current economic crisis.’
– Richard V. Adkisson, The Social Science Journal

‘For those who do not mind a stimulating read, the book by Christopher Brown, Inequality, Consumer Credit and the Saving Puzzle, is recommended. . . the book is exciting, tracing the causes for the uncommonly low savings rate in American households. . . this book is written in nearly colloquial language and easily understood. It is divided into eight chapters, each of which addresses one theme group, respectively. The author evaluates in detail literary sources, and also examines alternative approaches, but always returns to his line of thought. Relationships that he perceives as important are exemplified through small models. In addition to that, he always attempts to support the central thesis with statistics. In particular, to read those statistics is very exciting. Conclusion: a book definitely worth reading.’
– Friedrich Thießen, Bankhistorisches Archiv

‘Brown makes an important contribution to the field of consumer credit by presenting a broad view of the issues and problems associated with growing consumer credit habits, culture, and institutions. . . This book effectively uses a heterodox methodology, which will appeal to a wide audience of social scientists. Highly recommended.’
– R.H. Scott, Choice
Contents: 1. Consumer Credit and Effective Demand 2. The Household Debt Surge and the Theory of Habit Selection 3. A Brief History of Innovation in the Consumer Credit Industry 4. The Saving Puzzle: A Closer Examination 5. Macroeconomic Aspects of Consumer Credit Dependence 6. Balance Sheet (Minsky) Effects: An Empirical Analysis 7. Consumerism, Inequality and Globalization 8. Final Remarks Index