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Subprime Consumer Credit Demand: Evidence from a Lender?sPricing Experiment

  • Sule Alan


  • Ruxandra Dumitrescu
  • Gyongyi Loranth

We test the interest rate sensitivity of subprime credit card borrowers using a unique panel data set from a UK credit card company. What is novel about our contribution is that we were given details of a randomized interest rate experiment conducted by the lender between October 2006 and January 2007. We find that individuals who tend to utilize their credit limits fully do not reduce their demand for credit when subject to increases in interest rates as high as 3 percentage points. This finding is naturally interpreted as evidence of binding liquidity constraints. We also demonstrate the importance of truly exogenous variation in interest rates when estimating credit demand elasticities. We show that estimating a standard credit demand equation with nonexperimental variation leads to seriously biased estimates even when conditioning on a rich set of controls and individual fixed effects. In particular, this procedure results in a large and statistically significant 3-month elasticity of credit card debt with respect to interest rates even though the experimental estimate of the same elasticity is neither economically nor statistically different from zero.

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Paper provided by Central Bank of Luxembourg in its series BCL working papers with number 60.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bcl:bclwop:bclwp060
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  1. John A. List & Sally Sadoff & Mathis Wagner, 2009. "So you want to run an experiment, now what? Some Simple Rules of Thumb for Optimal Experimental Design," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 125, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  2. Dehejia, Rajeev & Montgomery, Heather & Morduch, Jonathan, 2012. "Do interest rates matter? Credit demand in the Dhaka slums," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 437-449.
  3. Orazio Attanasio & James Banks & Costas Meghir & Guglielmo Weber, 1995. "Humps and bumps in lifetime consumption," IFS Working Papers W95/14, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  4. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data," NBER Working Papers 8314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Rob Alessie & Stefan Hochguertel & Guglielmo Weber, 2005. "Consumer Credit: Evidence From Italian Micro Data," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(1), pages 144-178, 03.
  6. Sule Alan, 2005. "Entry Costs and Stock Market Participation Over the Life Cycle," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 126, McMaster University.
  7. Karlan, Dean S. & Zinman, Jonathan, 2007. "Credit Elasticities in Less-Developed Economies: Implications for Microfinance," CEPR Discussion Papers 6071, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. William Adams & Liran Einav & Jonathan Levin, 2007. "Liquidity Constraints and Imperfect Information in Subprime Lending," NBER Working Papers 13067, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Sule Alan & Martin Browning, 2010. "Estimating Intertemporal Allocation Parameters using Synthetic Residual Estimation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(4), pages 1231-1261.
  10. Pissarides, Christopher A, 1978. "Liquidity Considerations in the Theory of Consumption," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 279-96, May.
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