Patrick Moran, University of Oxford (Job Market Seminar)

"Breaking the Commitment Device: The Effect of Home Equity Withdrawal on Consumption, Saving, and Welfare"


Financial innovation and deregulation have given households an unprecedented ability to access home equity. To what extent is this beneficial? On one hand, access to home equity enables households to better smooth consumption and self-insure against risk. On the other hand, if housing acts as a savings commitment device, then more liquidity may weaken commitment. In this paper, we evaluate the costs and benefits of greater access to home equity by estimating a model that captures these two opposing channels. Model estimates are validated using a reform that abruptly legalized home equity withdrawal in Texas. In both the data and the model, we observe a 3% increase in nondurable consumption following the reform. According to our estimates, weakened commitment and consumption smoothing each account for half of the observed increase in consumption. Finally, we find that the cost of weakened commitment dominates and that welfare has declined due to the introduction of home equity withdrawal.

Contact person: Emiliano Santoro