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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. 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.
  2. Sydney Ludvigson, 1996. "Consumption and credit: a model of time-varying liquidity constraints," Research Paper 9624, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  3. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Paul S. Calem & Loretta J. Mester, . "Consumer Behavior and the Stickiness of CreditCard Interest Rates," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 3-94, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  5. 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.
  6. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1995. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-02, McMaster University.
  7. Frederic S. Mishkin, 1995. "Symposium on the Monetary Transmission Mechanism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 3-10, Fall.
  8. Stephen P. Zeldes, . "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 16-88, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  9. Deaton, A., 1989. "Saving And Liquidity Constraints," Papers 153, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," NBER Working Papers 8409, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. 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.
  14. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles Evans, 1994. "The effects of monetary policy shocks: evidence from the Flow of Funds," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 94-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  15. repec:fth:pennfi:69 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Robert E. Hall, 1981. "Intertemporal Substitution in Consumption," NBER Working Papers 0720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2000. "A Debt Puzzle," Documentos de Trabajo 80, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Balázs Égert & Ronald MacDonald, 2006. "Monetary Transmission Mechanism in Transition Economies: Surveying the Surveyable," MNB Working Papers 2006/5, Magyar Nemzeti Bank (the central bank of Hungary).
  2. Gomes, Orlando, 2007. "Deterministic randomness in a model of finance and growth," MPRA Paper 2888, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).

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