Two forces that until recently turbo-charged US consumer spending—growing household debt and a falling savings rate—have gone into reverse. In late 2008, as households started reducing their indebtedness and saving more, consumption tumbled.
New research from the McKinsey Global Institute shows that the economic impact of further US consumer deleveraging will depend on income growth. Without it, each percentage point increase in the savings rate would reduce spending by more than $100 billion—a serious drag on any recovery. Relatively healthy income growth, on the other hand, would help households reduce their debt burden without trimming consumption as much.