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Rising indebtedness and temptation: A welfare analysis

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  • Makoto Nakajima

Abstract

Is the observed large increase in consumer indebtedness since 1970 beneficial for U.S. consumers? This paper quantitatively investigates the macroeconomic and welfare implications of relaxing borrowing constraints using a model with preferences featuring temptation and self-control. The model can capture two contrasting views: the positive view, which links increased indebtedness to financial innovation and thus better consumption smoothing, and the negative view, which is associated with consumers' over-borrowing. The author finds that the latter is sizable: the calibrated model implies a social welfare loss equivalent to a 0.4 percent decrease in per-period consumption from the relaxed borrowing constraint consistent with the observed increase in indebtedness. The welfare implication is strikingly different from the standard model without temptation, which implies a welfare gain of 0.7 percent, even though the two models are observationally similar. Naturally, the optimal level of the borrowing limit is significantly tighter according to the temptation model, as a tighter borrowing limit helps consumers by preventing over-borrowing.
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Suggested Citation

  • Makoto Nakajima, 2012. "Rising indebtedness and temptation: A welfare analysis," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(2), pages 257-288, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:quante:v:3:y:2012:i:2:p:257-288
    DOI: QE87
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    1. Rising indebtedness and temptation: a welfare analysis
      by Christian Zimmermann in NEP-DGE blog on 2011-11-19 08:00:01

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    2. Agnes Kovacs & Hamish Low & Patrick Moran, 2021. "Estimating Temptation And Commitment Over The Life Cycle," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 62(1), pages 101-139, February.
    3. Exler, Florian & Livshits, Igor & MacGee, Jim & Tertilt, Michèle, 2020. "Consumer Credit with Over-Optimistic Borrowers," CEPR Discussion Papers 15570, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Andrea, Colciago & Rajssa, Mechelli, 2019. "Competition and Inequality: Aiyagari meets Bertrand and Cournot," Working Papers 398, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2019.
    5. Igor Livshits, 2015. "Recent Developments In Consumer Credit And Default Literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 594-613, September.
    6. Kukk, Merike, 2016. "How did household indebtedness hamper consumption during the recession? Evidence from micro data," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 764-786.
    7. Bechlioulis, Alexandros P. & Brissimis, Sophocles N., 2019. "Consumer debt non-payment and the borrowing constraint: Implications for consumer behavior," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 161-172.
    8. Radoslaw Paluszynski & Pei Cheng Yu, "undated". "Optimal Taxation with Risky Human Capital and Retirement Savings," Discussion Papers 2019-05, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    9. Alvarez-Cuadrado, Francisco & Japaridze, Irakli, 2017. "Trickle-down consumption, financial deregulation, inequality, and indebtedness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 1-26.
    10. Merike Kukk, 2014. "Distinguishing the components of household financial wealth: the impact of liabilities on assets in Euro Area countries," Bank of Estonia Working Papers wp2014-2, Bank of Estonia, revised 10 Oct 2014.
    11. Minwook Kang & Lei Sandy Ye, 2021. "Can Optimism be a Remedy for Present Bias?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 53(1), pages 201-231, February.
    12. Ghiaie Hamed, 2020. "Shadow Bank Run, Housing and Credit Market: The Story of a Recession," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 20(2), pages 1-30, June.
    13. Cesar Leandro, Julio & Botelho, Delane, 2022. "Consumer over-indebtedness: A review and future research agenda," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 535-551.
    14. Minwook Kang, 2019. "Pareto-improving tax policies under hyperbolic discounting," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 26(3), pages 618-660, June.
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    16. Makoto Nakajima, 2013. "A tale of two commitments: equilibrium default and temptation," Working Papers 14-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    17. Roettger, Joost, 2019. "Discretionary monetary and fiscal policy with endogenous sovereign risk," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 44-66.

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