The Indian household finance landscape

Using the most recent wave of the AIDIS data, we describe and attempt to explain several important features of Indian household balance sheets. When compared with data on households in a range of developed and emerging economies, Indian households on average tend to hold a high fraction of non-financial assets with particularly high relative weights in real estate and gold, hold negligible retirement assets, and non-institutional debt is their primary source of debt. These propensities are also evident along the lifecycle, as well as at almost all points in the wealth distribution, and correlated with location (rural vs. urban), education, and family composition. Controlling for demographics, substantial state-level variation remains in asset and debt holdings which is related to state-level factors including historical inflation volatility, the share of the population in public sector employment, and the density of bank branch networks. We discuss the potential implications of these results for policy.

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