During the global housing boom that preceded the 2007–9 financial crisis, household debt increased substantially in many European countries, posing a challenge for literature on financialization and the institutional heterogeneity of mortgage markets. This paper examines recent institutional shifts in European mortgage markets and specifies three analytically distinct models of debt accumulation: inclusion, extension and intensity. While existing research has emphasized inclusion (access to homeownership), we show that financial intensification is an important determinant of cross-national variation in debt. We assess the variation in financial intensity in six European countries (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) using household-level survey data. Our results show that inclusion and expansion explain only part of the cross-national variation in mortgage debt to income ratios. Furthermore, household financial behaviour is consistent with the financial intensity model, and variation in the degree of financial intensification explains a substantial portion of the cross-national difference in debt levels.
- Household debt