Atif Mian’s new book, House of Debt, has transformed the way economists and policymakers understand the Great Recession. Its argument that household debt was the primary driver of the crash has been critically acclaimed by The New York Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The Atlantic, among others.
This striking new perspective is the result of over five years of original research examining household debt on a micro level — literally neighborhood by neighborhood. Armed with this powerful data, Atif and his co-author Amir Sufi describe the astonishing rise in household debt leading up to 2007 and explain how this led to the Great Recession in America and the current economic malaise in Europe. In both cases, they found that ballooning household debt led to foreclosures, which in turn led to a significant drop in household spending; less spending meant less demand; less demand led to declines in production and huge job losses.
That’s a very different story from the one our media tell — and the one our governments have acted on when they make policy. That’s why Atif’s work is so important: getting the story right means giving ourselves the chance to prevent a crisis like this one from happening again. To that end, House of Debt includes specific proposals for new, better policies that focus on the real roots of the problem.
Atif is the Theodore A. Wells '29 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, and Director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance at the Woodrow Wilson School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with Computer Science and a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT. Prior to joining Princeton in 2012, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Professor Mian's research has appeared in top academic journals, including the American Economic Review, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Finance, Review of Financial Studies and Journal of Financial Economics.
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