Household Debt in America: Welcoming Remarks

November 04, 2014

Julie Stackhouse, senior vice president, Banking Supervision and Regulation for the St. Louis Fed, shares welcoming remarks with attendees at the Nov. 5, 2014, "Dialogue with the Fed" presentation on household debt in America and how it has changed over time and across generations. She introduces Don Schlagenhauf, chief economist for the Center for Household Financial Stability.

Presentation (PDF)


Julie Stackhouse: Good evening everyone. Thank you. I got a few good evenings. I appreciate that. And I hope everyone enjoyed the food we had for you tonight. I thought I heard a few people say, "I only come back for the food," but maybe I misheard on that. No, we just see some familiar faces and we're delighted that you're back. It seems like it's been a long time since we've had you here so it's great to be able to see you all again.

Our subject tonight is Household Debt in America: A Look Across Generations Over Time. Now this work is being done partly in the area that I oversee, and we'll hear from Don tonight to talk about some of the research. And part of it's being done in our Research division and Carlos will join Don later tonight to add his thoughts to the subject. But I think you're going to leave tonight with a really interesting perspective and maybe even a few more questions than when you came of what does all this mean. So I think you're going to have a great time in hearing what it is, what the data says, and then certainly we'll have a dialogue where you can ask your questions and maybe come away with at least the thoughts of these subject matter experts including Brian on what it means.

Now a few notes about tonight before I introduce Don Schlagenhauf and of course the first thing is that we do tests here at the Federal Reserve. Now for those of you who are saying, "What does she mean?" in front of you is a little clicker. That little clicker records your response and we're going to do a few quick survey questions or tests, as I like to call them, just to see who you are and whether you've been here before.

So let's start with the first one. We'd like to know about where you are employed. And by the way for those of you that are saying, "I'm not employed; I'm retired," we've got you there too. So you have nine choices. Please pick the one on your clicker that best applies to you. And really if none of them do you're welcome to pick number nine. So construction or manufacturing, one; financial activities, two; government, three; health or education, four; leisure or hospitality, five; professional and business services, six; trade, transportation or utilities, seven; retired, I love it, eight; maybe I want it [laughs]; and other, number nine. So hopefully that's given you a little time and we can look up at the response numbers. You can see in the upper right hand corner that we've still got a few responses coming in. This is also an integrity check. If in the question the number changes then I look at you and go, "Okay, who didn't vote the other time?" No, I am joking with you on that.

So it looks like we are settling in. I'm going to go ahead and show you what our response are. Okay. So number eight, retired, woo hoo [laughs]. You are the winners tonight, at least as it relates to this poll question. But we sure have a good representation from financial; health and education; and six, professional and business services, which is a pretty big category. And then a group of others and hopefully by the end of tonight you'll find out who you are. No, in all fairness I'm sure we've got a great mix. In fact it's very interesting just to look across the audience and even see some of the age ranges tonight, and it will be fun for you to perhaps even gather for a few minutes across age groups and talk about what you've learned.

So let's go on to the next question. And our favorite, is this your first time inside the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis? Okay, it looks like we're settling out there without too many more. So the answer is 19 percent, this is your first time; 81 percent, we're regulars. We do like that food. Welcome to the 19 percent that haven't been here before. I know I met a few of you in the hallway before the start of the event. We're delighted you're here. I think, well I hope you find is that it's not such a frightening institution despite what you might read in the newspaper. Certainly for those of us that work here it is an institution of incredibly high integrity where those that work here work here for a mission-based purpose, and that is for the betterment of the U.S. economy and its financial system. So we're obviously pretty proud of that and it's our pleasure to be able to share that with you.

Some of you did have a chance to quickly walk through the museum if you arrived a bit early. If you didn't I hope you have a chance to come back and do that in the not-too-distant future, either during the open museum hours, which I believe are, Julia, 10:00 to 3:00 Monday through Friday or otherwise by making a reservation for a group tour. I think you'll learn a lot more about the Federal Reserve, and frankly for the years ahead you might want to know that as the Federal Reserve continues its travel down this all new route of unconventional monetary policy.

So in any event let's go ahead and get started with our program for tonight. First of all it's my pleasure to introduce one of my colleagues, Don Schlagenhauf, and as you've seen on the handout that you have on the back Don is currently our chief economist in the Center for Household Financial Stability, a subject we talked about probably a year or so ago. He's joined us fairly recently, within the last year and a half or so, where he previously served as a professor of economics at Florida State University. Don tells me he likes the St. Louis weather better than Florida. No, he didn't tell me that at all. But he has a great background for the job we have including a great deal of research work on household balance sheets, mortgage innovations, the recent housing boom and bust, certainly those things that are playing into debt and wealth in today's environment. So please join me in welcoming Don.

This popular lecture series addresses key issues and provides the opportunity to ask questions of Fed experts. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.

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