Summary: Using comparable survey data from twelve European countries from 1994 to 2001 we investigate households’ attitudes towards mortgage indebtedness. We find that a given debt burden creates much higher distress in countries with fewer mortgage holders relative to countries where a significant part of households uses mortgage debt. This effect is net of ppp-adjusted income levels, various socioeconomic characteristics, housing traits, country-specific constant terms, and household unobserved heterogeneity. We show that households evaluate their own debt burden partly in comparison with the debt position of their peer group and in a way consistent with social stigma considerations which lessen in significance as markets expand.
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