Chicago Fed Letter
The global economy has reached record levels of indebtedness, to the concern of researchers and policymakers. On the one hand, debt can be beneficial by smoothing out consumption and accelerating capital accumulation, and thus contributing to economic output. On the other hand, rising debt increases debt service costs and can potentially expose countries to financial risks and lower output. In particular, a large expansion of debt can be associated with a significant economic contraction that can last for years.
Globalization, particularly through international trade in goods, has helped to foster the creation of tremendous amounts of wealth and prosperity across much of the globe while lifting sizable portions of the world’s population out of poverty. In particular, the latter half of the twentieth century delivered unprecedented rates of increased economic integration among many countries. Access to global markets supported the industrialization of emerging economies and opened up new markets for firms in wealthier countries. As a result of the expansion of international trade and competition, consumers in rich and poor countries alike gained in terms of greater purchasing power, better-quality products, and more product varieties.
The Covid-19 pandemic and associated recession have had dramatically different effects across industries, with some, including large parts of the leisure and hospitality sector, truly devastated and others, like much of the manufacturing sector, able to recover quite quickly. This has led some analysts to describe the pandemic as a reallocation shock, requiring substantial movement of labor across industries. Such a process likely requires substantial time, during which the natural rate of unemployment may be elevated. In this Chicago Fed Letter, we consider two questions: First, has the need for labor reallocation risen, and second, has there been an increase in the amount of reallocation that is actually occurring?
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in great economic and financial disruption. To better understand how financial hardships have varied across communities, we investigate credit card delinquencies across the states of the Federal Reserve’s Seventh District: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. While we find a slight increase of less than 1 percentage point in delinquency rates across the District overall following the onset of the pandemic, we find more pronounced increases of about 2 percentage points in low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods and about 3 percentage points in majority Black neighborhoods.