Excessive Household Debt: A Financial and Legal Hurdle or a Social Problem?
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Publication date: 2013-04-30
GNPJE 2013;263(4):83-108
The article focuses on the issue of excessive household debt, its causes and implications. Indebtedness and consumer bankruptcy have been a subject of scientific and empirical studies for decades, the author says. The consequences of excessive household debt reach far beyond finance and law and make it a major social problem, according to Gębski. Indebtedness leads to a loss of financial security and financial and social exclusion. In his research, the author refers to various European and North American publications dealing with indebtedness. These studies adopt different approaches and define excessive debt in different ways. Gębski comes up with a definition of excessive debt that combines various concepts relevant to the United States and Canada as well European Union countries including Poland. The research enables the author to identify a number of universal factors that determine the basic causes of indebtedness. The author highlights the social aspect of the problem by analyzing consumer protection policy tools and pinpointing trouble spots such as information asymmetry on the consumer finance market. The finding that excessive debt is caused by a combination of factors including the expected level of consumption, financial market practices and financial literacy can be a valuable clue for governments and NGOs dealing with the problem, Gębski says – in terms of how they could prevent the escalation and consequences of household indebtedness and give indebted households a chance for a new start in life.
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