Working Paper
Housing and Personal Wealth in a Global Context

Housing is the single most important component of personal wealth in most countries. The special characteristics of housing markets are therefore key to understanding personal portfolios, saving, the household distribution of wealth, and the monetary transmission mechanism. This paper discusses how housing markets and institutions differ across countries, paying particular attention to the UK and the EU, but extending its reach as well to other OECD countries such as Japan and emerging market countries such as South Africa. It analyzes how those differences help to create contrasts in the impact on consumption of housing as a component of personal wealth. The impacts of rates of home ownership, credit market characteristics, interest rates, and macroeconomic conditions are studied. Implications for monetary, fiscal, and other policies are discussed.