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Rising indebtedness and temptation: A welfare analysis

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  • Makoto Nakajima

Abstract

Is the observed large increase in consumer indebtedness since 1970 beneficial for U.S. consumers? This paper quantitatively investigates the macroeconomic and welfare implications of relaxing borrowing constraints using a model with preferences featuring temptation and self-control. The model can capture two contrasting views: the positive view, which links increased indebtedness to financial innovation and thus better consumption smoothing, and the negative view, which is associated with consumers' over-borrowing. The author finds that the latter is sizable: the calibrated model implies a social welfare loss equivalent to a 0.4 percent decrease in per-period consumption from the relaxed borrowing constraint consistent with the observed increase in indebtedness. The welfare implication is strikingly different from the standard model without temptation, which implies a welfare gain of 0.7 percent, even though the two models are observationally similar. Naturally, the optimal level of the borrowing limit is significantly tighter according to the temptation model, as a tighter borrowing limit helps consumers by preventing over-borrowing.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Econometric Society in its journal Quantitative Economics.

Volume (Year): 3 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (07)
Pages: 257-288

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Handle: RePEc:ecm:quante:v:3:y:2012:i:2:p:257-288

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References

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  1. Pijoan-Mas, Josep, 2005. "Precautionary Savings or Working Longer Hours?," CEPR Discussion Papers 5322, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2007. "Estimating Discount Functions with Consumption Choices over the Lifecycle," Documentos de Trabajo 236, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
  3. Juan Carlos Conesa & Sagiri Kitao & Dirk Krueger, 2007. "Taxing Capital? Not a Bad Idea After All!," NBER Working Papers 12880, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Per Krusell & Burhanettin Kuruscu & Anthony A. Smith, Jr., 2000. "Temptation and Taxation," GSIA Working Papers 2001-12, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  5. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2000. "A Debt Puzzle," Documentos de Trabajo 80, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
  6. Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michele Tertilt, 2006. "Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies," University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute Working Papers 20066, University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute.
  7. Francesc Obiols-Homs, 2011. "On borrowing limits and welfare," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 14(2), pages 279-294, April.
  8. Makoto Nakajima, 2009. "Equilibrium Default and Temptation," 2009 Meeting Papers 863, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Benjamin A. Malin, 2005. "Hyperbolic Discounting and Uniform Savings Floor," Discussion Papers 04-034, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  10. David I. Laibson, 1996. "Hyperbolic Discount Functions, Undersaving, and Savings Policy," NBER Working Papers 5635, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
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As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Rising indebtedness and temptation: a welfare analysis
    by Christian Zimmermann in NEP-DGE blog on 2011-11-19 02:00:01

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