Households and banks have increasingly displaced non-financial businesses and governments as the primary debtors in modern capitalist economies, resulting in more severe economic cycles, increased inequality, and external macroeconomic imbalances. Yet while the trend is nearly universal among developed economies, its intensity varies a great deal from country to country. This article highlights (1) the common international causes behind the global expansion of household and financial sector debt; (2) the divergent national approaches to household credit that cause household and financial sector indebtedness to vary from country to country; and (3) the likely causes of these disparate approaches. National approaches to interest rate restrictions, property transfer taxation, high loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages, mortgage interest taxation, and secondary markets for consumer debt can either encourage or mitigate household and financial sector borrowing. Whether a country encourages or mitigates such credit is determined by an idiosyncratic mix of institutional, political, and ideational factors. Especially important are the size of domestic pension funds, banks’ preferred business models, the political power of financial firms, and whether policymakers are more sensitive to the gains promised by a credit-fueled expansion or to the risks posed by an overleveraged collapse.