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Where Is The Missing Credit Card Debt? Clues And Implications

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  • Jonathan Zinman

Abstract

I create comparable estimates of aggregate credit card use based on household data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) and industry data. The two sources match up well on credit card charges and fairly well on account totals. But the SCF always yields much lower estimates of revolving debt. My estimated lower bound for the discrepancy in 2004 is half of the revolving credit card debt total implied by industry data. There is no obvious source for this remaining discrepancy and some evidence that the discrepancy has grown over time. Such growth is worrisome because it parallels substantial changes in credit card use and in the pool of credit card users, suggesting that the discrepancy could be driven by household underreporting that is correlated with unobserved heterogeneity. This correlation could confound inference on the relationship between credit card borrowing and outcomes of interest like household financial condition, consumption paths, and portfolio choice. Given this possibility it is critical to continue developing evidence on whether and why household surveys undercount credit card borrowing. Copyright 2009 The Author. Journal compilation International Association for Research in Income and Wealth 2009.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Where Is The Missing Credit Card Debt? Clues And Implications," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(2), pages 249-265, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:55:y:2009:i:2:p:249-265
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2002. "Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 149-185.
    2. Johnson Kathleen W., 2007. "The Transactions Demand for Credit Cards," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-33, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2010. "Present-Biased Preferences and Credit Card Borrowing," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 193-210, January.
    2. Cliff A. Robb & Patryk Babiarz & Ann Woodyard & Martin C. Seay, 2015. "Bounded Rationality and Use of Alternative Financial Services," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(2), pages 407-435, July.
    3. Stephanie Moulton & Cäzilia Loibl & Anya Samak & J. Michael Collins, 2013. "Borrowing Capacity and Financial Decisions of Low-to-Moderate Income First-Time Homebuyers," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 375-403, November.
    4. Yvonne McCarthy & Kieran McQuinn, 2016. "Attenuation Bias, Recall Error and the Housing Wealth Effect," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(3), pages 492-517, August.
    5. McKernan, Signe-Mary & Ratcliffe, Caroline & Kuehn, Daniel, 2013. "Prohibitions, price caps, and disclosures: A look at state policies and alternative financial product use," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 207-223.
    6. Karlan, Dean & Osman, Adam & Zinman, Jonathan, 2016. "Follow the money not the cash: Comparing methods for identifying consumption and investment responses to a liquidity shock," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 11-23.
    7. Andreas Fuster & Paul S. Willen, 2011. "Insuring Consumption Using Income-Linked Assets," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 15(4), pages 835-873.
    8. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2011. "Limited and Varying Consumer Attention: Evidence from Shocks to the Salience of Bank Overdraft Fees," NBER Working Papers 17028, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Bhutta, Neil, 2015. "The ins and outs of mortgage debt during the housing boom and bust," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 284-298.
    10. Gathergood, John, 2012. "Self-control, financial literacy and consumer over-indebtedness," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 590-602.
    11. Leigh Ann Leung & Catherine Lau, 2017. "Effect of mortgage indebtedness on health of U.S. homeowners," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 239-264, March.
    12. Connolly, Sean & Stavins, Joanna, 2015. "Payment instrument adoption and use in the United States, 2009–2013, by consumers' demographic characteristics," Research Data Report 15-6, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    13. Fulford, Scott L., 2015. "How important is variability in consumer credit limits?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 42-63.
    14. Jonathan Zinman & Dean Karlan, 2009. "Expanding Microenterprise Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts in Manila," Working Papers 976, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    15. French, Declan & McKillop, Donal, 2016. "Financial literacy and over-indebtedness in low-income households," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 1-11.
    16. Bhutta, Neil, 2014. "Payday loans and consumer financial health," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 230-242.
    17. Stavins, Joanna, 2017. "How do consumers make their payment choices?," Research Data Report 17-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    18. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "What Do Consumers Really Pay on Their Checking and Credit Card Accounts? Explicit, Implicit, and Avoidable Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 424-429, May.
    19. Alice M. Henriques & Joanne W. Hsu, 2013. "Analysis of wealth using micro and macro data: a comparison of the Survey of Consumer Finances and Flow of Funds Accounts," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2013-46, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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