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Diagnosing Consumer Confusion and Sub-optimal Shopping Effort: Theory and Mortgage-Market Evidence


  • Susan E. Woodward
  • Robert E. Hall


Mortgage loans are leading examples of transactions where experts on one side of the market take advantage of consumers' lack of knowledge and experience. We study the compensation that borrowers pay to mortgage brokers for assistance from application to closing. Two findings support the conclusion that confused borrowers overpay for brokers' services: (i ) A model of effective shopping shows that borrowers sacrifice at least $1,000 by shopping from too few brokers. (ii ) Borrowers who compensate their brokers with both cash and a commission from the lender pay twice as much as similar borrowers who pay no cash. (JEL D12, D14, G21)

Suggested Citation

  • Susan E. Woodward & Robert E. Hall, 2012. "Diagnosing Consumer Confusion and Sub-optimal Shopping Effort: Theory and Mortgage-Market Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3249-3276, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:7:p:3249-76 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.102.7.3249

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert E. Hall & Alan B. Krueger, 2010. "Evidence on the Determinants of the Choice between Wage Posting and Wage Bargaining," NBER Working Papers 16033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2006. "Using price distributions to estimate search costs," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(2), pages 257-275, June.
    3. Ayres, Ian & Siegelman, Peter, 1995. "Race and Gender Discrimination in Bargaining for a New Car," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 304-321, June.
    4. Antje Berndt & Burton Hollifield & Patrik Sandås, 2010. "The Role of Mortgage Brokers in the Subprime Crisis," NBER Chapters,in: Market Institutions and Financial Market Risk National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Marsha Courchane & David Nickerson, 1997. "Discrimination Resulting from Overage Practices," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 11(1), pages 133-151, February.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages


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