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In harm’s way? Payday loan access and military personnel performance

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  • Scott Carrell
  • Jonathan Zinman

Abstract

Does borrowing at 400 percent APR do more harm than good? The Pentagon asserts that payday loans harm military readiness and successfully lobbied for a binding 36 percent APR cap on loans to military members and their families (effective October 1, 2007). But existing evidence on how access to high-interest debt affects borrower behavior is inconclusive. We use within-state variation in state lending laws and exogenous variation in the assignment of Air Force personnel to bases in different states to estimate the effect of payday loan access on personnel outcomes. We find significant average declines in overall job performance and retention and significant increases in severely poor readiness. These results provide some ammunition for the private optimality of the Pentagon’s position. The welfare implications for military members are less clear-cut, but our results are consistent with the interpretation that payday loan access causes financial distress and severe misbehavior for relatively young, inexperienced, and financially unsophisticated airmen. Overall job performance declines are also concentrated in these groups, and several pieces of evidence suggest that these declines are welfare-reducing (and not the result of airmen optimally reducing effort given an expanded opportunity set); e.g., performance declines are larger in high unemployment areas with payday lending.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in its series Working Papers with number 08-18.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedpwp:08-18

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Keywords: Loans;

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References

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  1. Antecol, Heather & Cobb-Clark, Deborah A., 2008. "Racial and ethnic discrimination in local consumer markets: Exploiting the army's procedures for matching personnel to duty locations," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 496-509, September.
  2. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2010. "Expanding Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(1), pages 433-464, January.
  3. Jonathan A. Parker & Markus K. Brunnermeier, 2004. "Optimal Expectations," Econometric Society 2004 North American Winter Meetings 426, Econometric Society.
  4. Donald P. Morgan, 2007. "Defining and detecting predatory lending," Staff Reports 273, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  5. Asch, Beth J & Warner, John T, 2001. "A Theory of Compensation and Personnel Policy in Hierarchical Organizations with Application to the United States Military," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(3), pages 523-62, July.
  6. David S. Lyle, 2006. "Using Military Deployments and Job Assignments to Estimate the Effect of Parental Absences and Household Relocations on Children's Academic Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 319-350, April.
  7. Carrell, Scott E., 2007. "The national internal labor market encounters the local labor market: Effects on employee retention," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 774-787, October.
  8. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275, February.
  9. Mark Flannery & Katherine Samolyk, 2005. "Payday lending: do the costs justify the price?," Proceedings 949, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  10. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2008. "Lying About Borrowing," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 510-521, 04-05.
  11. Scott E. Carrell & James E. West, 2005. "Optimal compensating wages for military personnel," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(4), pages 803-822.
  12. Donald P. Morgan & Michael R. Strain, 2007. "Payday holiday: how households fare after payday credit bans," Staff Reports 309, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  13. Michael A. Stegman, 2007. "Payday Lending," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 169-190, Winter.
  14. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
  15. Wilson Bart J & Findlay David W. & Meehan James W. & Wellford Charissa & Schurter Karl, 2010. "An Experimental Analysis of the Demand for Payday Loans," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-31, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2006. "Expanding credit access: Using randomized supply decisions to estimate the impacts," Natural Field Experiments 00281, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Richard W. Evans, 2012. "Determinants of Short-term Consumer Lending Interest Rates," BYU Macroeconomics and Computational Laboratory Working Paper Series 2012-07, Brigham Young University, Department of Economics, BYU Macroeconomics and Computational Laboratory.
  3. Cambpbell, John Y. & Jackson, Howell Edmunds & Madrian, Brigitte & Tufano, Peter, 2010. "The Regulation of Consumer Financial Products: An Introductory Essay with Four Case Studies," Scholarly Articles 4450128, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Linardi, Sera & Tanaka, Tomomi, 2013. "Competition as a savings incentive: A field experiment at a homeless shelter," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 240-251.
  5. Zinman, Jonathan, 2010. "Restricting consumer credit access: Household survey evidence on effects around the Oregon rate cap," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 546-556, March.
  6. Oren Rigbi, 2012. "The Effects of Usury Laws: Evidence from the Online Loan Market," Working Papers 1204, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.
  7. Wilson Bart J & Findlay David W. & Meehan James W. & Wellford Charissa & Schurter Karl, 2010. "An Experimental Analysis of the Demand for Payday Loans," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-31, October.
  8. John P. Caskey, 2010. "Payday lending: new research and the big question," Working Papers 10-32, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

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