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The Interplay Between Student Loans and Credit Card Debt: Implications for Default in the Great Recession

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  • Ionescu, Felicia

    ()
    (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.))

  • Ionescu, Marius

    ()
    (Colgate University)

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    Abstract

    We analyze the interactions between two different forms of unsecured credit and their implications for default behavior of young U.S. households. One type of credit mimics credit cards in the United States and the default option resembles a bankruptcy filing under Chapter 7; the other type of credit mimics student loans in the United States and the default option resembles Chapter 13. In the credit card market a financial intermediary offers a menu of interest rates based on individual default risk, which account for borrowing and repayment behavior in both markets. In the student loan market, the government sets the interest rate and chooses a wage garnishment to pay for the cost associated with default. We prove the existence of a steady-state equilibrium and characterize the circumstances under which a household defaults on each of these loans. We demonstrate that the institutional differences between the two markets make borrowers prefer to default on student loans rather than on credit card debt. We find that the increase in student loan debt together with the expansion of the credit card market fully explains the increase in the default rate for student loans in recent normal years (2004-2007). Worse labor outcomes for young borrowers during the Great Recession (2008-2009) significantly amplified student loan default, whereas credit card market contraction during this period helped reduce this effect. At the same time, the accumulation of student loan debt did not affect much the default risk in the credit card market during normal times, but significantly increased it during the Great Recession. An income contingent repayment plan for student loans completely eliminates the default risk in the credit card market and induces important redistribution effects. This policy is beneficial (in a welfare improving sense) during the Great Recession but not during normal times.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2014-14.

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    Length: 65 pages
    Date of creation: 03 Feb 2014
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2014-14

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    Related research

    Keywords: Default; student loans; credit cards; Great Recession;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

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    1. Chatterjee, Satyajit & Corbae, Dean & Ríos-Rull, José-Víctor, 2008. "A finite-life private-information theory of unsecured consumer debt," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 142(1), pages 149-177, September.
    2. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae & Makoto Nakajima & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2007. "A quantitative theory of unsecured consumer credit with risk of default," Working Papers 07-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    3. Kahn, Lisa B., 2010. "The long-term labor market consequences of graduating from college in a bad economy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 303-316, April.
    4. Kurt Mitman, 2012. "Macroeconomic Effects of Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Policies," 2012 Meeting Papers 563, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 98-28, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
    6. Athreya, Kartik & Tam, Xuan S. & Young, Eric R., 2009. "Unsecured credit markets are not insurance markets," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 83-103, January.
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