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Consumer Response to Changes in Credit Supply: Evidence from Credit Card Data

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  • David Gross
  • Nicholas Souleles

Abstract

This paper utilizes a unique new data set on credit card accounts to analyze how people respond to changes in credit supply. The data consist of a panel of several hundred thousand individual credit card accounts followed monthly for 24-36 months, from several different card issuers, with associated credit bureau data. We estimate the dynamic effects of changes in the credit limit and in interest rates, and consider the ability of different models of consumption and saving to rationalize these effects. We find that increases in credit limits generate an immediate and significant rise in debt. This response is sharpest for people starting near their limit, providing evidence that liquidity constraints are binding. However, even people starting well below their limit significantly respond. We show this result is consistent with conventional models of precautionary savings. Nonetheless there are other results that conventional models cannot easily explain, such as the fact that many credit card borrowers simultaneously hold other low yielding assets. Unlike most other studies, we also find strong effects from changes in account-specific interest rates. Debt is particularly sensitive to large declines in interest rates, which can explain the widespread use of teaser rates. The long-run elasticity of debt to the interest rate is about -1.3. Less than half of this elasticity represents balance-switching across cards, with most reflecting net changes in total borrowing. Overall, the results imply that the consumer plays a potentially important role in the transmission of monetary policy and other credit shocks.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania in its series Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers with number 01-10.

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Date of creation: Mar 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wop:pennin:01-10

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  1. repec:fth:pennfi:69 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 305-46, April.
  3. Ben S. Bernanke & Mark Gertler, 1995. "Inside the Black Box: The Credit Channel of Monetary Policy Transmission," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 27-48, Fall.
  4. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles Evans, 1994. "The effects of monetary policy shocks: evidence from the flow of funds," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Apr.
  5. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1995. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-02, McMaster University.
  6. Deaton, A., 1989. "Saving And Liquidity Constraints," Papers 153, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  7. Sydney Ludvigson, 1999. "Consumption And Credit: A Model Of Time-Varying Liquidity Constraints," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(3), pages 434-447, August.
  8. Tullio Jappelli & Jörn-Steffen Pischke & Nicholas S. Souleles, 1998. "Testing For Liquidity Constraints In Euler Equations With Complementary Data Sources," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(2), pages 251-262, May.
  9. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2000. "A Debt Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 7879, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Jappelli, Tullio, 1990. "Who Is Credit Constrained in the U.S. Economy?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 219-34, February.
  11. Hall, Robert E, 1988. "Intertemporal Substitution in Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 339-57, April.
  12. Paul S. Calem & Loretta J. Mester, 1994. "Consumer Behavior and the Stickiness of Credit Card Interest Rates," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 94-14, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  13. Frederic S. Mishkin, 1995. "Symposium on the Monetary Transmission Mechanism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 3-10, Fall.
  14. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  15. Christopher D. Carroll, 1992. "The Buffer-Stock Theory of Saving: Some Macroeconomic Evidence," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(2), pages 61-156.
  16. Ludvigson, Sydney, 1998. "The Channel of Monetary Transmission to Demand: Evidence from the Market for Automobile Credit," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 30(3), pages 365-83, August.
  17. Anil K. Kashyap & Jeremy C. Stein, 1994. "Monetary Policy and Bank Lending," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy, pages 221-261 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. 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.
  19. Ausubel, Lawrence M, 1991. "The Failure of Competition in the Credit Card Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 50-81, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Huffman, David B. & Barenstein, Matias, 2004. "Riches to Rags Every Month? The Fall in Consumption Expenditures Between Paydays," IZA Discussion Papers 1430, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Balazs Egert & Ronald MacDonald, 2006. "Monetary Transmission Mechanism in Transition Economies: Surveying the Surveyable," CESifo Working Paper Series 1739, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Gomes, Orlando, 2007. "Deterministic randomness in a model of finance and growth," MPRA Paper 2888, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Athreya, Kartik B., 2002. "Welfare implications of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(8), pages 1567-1595, November.

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