Central Bank of Chile Working Papers

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Date Published 2010
Primary Author Rodrigo Alfaro
Other Authors Natalia Gallardo Roberto Stein
Theme Disaster Risk Mitigation and Housing Finance, Risk Management of Housing Finance Institutions, Global Financial Crisis
Country Chile


Based on a new dataset obtained from survey data, we study household debt default behavior in Chile. Previous research in this area suggests financial and personal variables that can help estimate individual and group probabilities of default. We study mortgage and consumer default separately, as the default decisions and overall borrower behavior are different for each type of debt. Our study finds that income and income-related variables are the only significant and robust variables that explain default for both types of debt. Demographic or personal variables are specific to one or the other type of debt but not to both. For example, level of education is a factor that affects mortgage default, whereas the determinants of consumer debt default include the age of the household head, and the number of people within the household that contribute to the total family income. We derive threshold probabilities of default for each type of debt and compare them to those obtained from results of previous work based on the same Chilean data, but with a different approach. We find that the probability of default decreases as the family income increases, and that our estimates are consistent with other studies similar to ours. Also consistently with previous research, we find that, in terms of the distribution of debt and default risk, the largest portion of the country’s household debt is in the hands of families in the upper quintiles, who have the lowest risk of default. This implies that the overall financial system should be relatively stable, even in the face of moderate macroeconomic shocks.

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