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Household Debt and Economic Crises

Causes, Consequences and Remedies

Heikki Hiilamo

The trajectories of increasing household debt are studied in the contexts of the US and the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway. Household Debt and Economic Crises examines remedies to prevent and alleviate the over-indebtedness epidemic, creating a conceptual framework with which to analyse the causes and consequences of debt. Hiilamo argues that social policies are needed to tackle the current borrowing crisis that endangers and prevents the full participation in society of individuals with excessive debts.
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Chapter 6: Conclusions: towards social policy solutions to debt problems

Heikki Hiilamo


An important finding from the comparison of debt problems and policies to regulate them in six countries is that the differences in personal insolvency regimes do not follow the traditional welfare state regime demarcation lines. For over-indebted individuals, the US offers the best possibility for a fresh start. Undoubtedly the swift debt discharge options in the US, even with their deficiencies, compensate for the underdeveloped welfare state programmes in other areas. However, weaknesses of, for example, health care systems and support for students are important causes of over-indebtedness in the US. The social policy approach calls for a method that would integrate different policy areas related to over-indebtedness. That entails coordination between different ministries and government agencies dealing with a wide range of topics, from regulation of financial markets to consumer education.

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