The Effects of Usury Laws: Evidence from the Online Loan Market
Usury laws cap the interest rates that lenders can charge. Using data from Prosper.com (an online lending marketplace), I show how interest rate caps affect: 1) the probability that a loan is funded; 2) the amount a borrower requests; 3) the interest rate at which a loan is funded; and 4) loan repayments. The key to my empirical strategy is that there initially was substantial variability in states' interest rate caps, according to which Prosper borrowers from different states faced caps ranging from 6 to 36%. A behind-the-scenes change in loan origination, however, suddenly increased the cap to 36% in all but one state. This change, which was not pre-announced, creates \treatment" states where caps rose and a few control states where caps remained unchanged. I find that higher interest rate caps increase the probability that a loan will be funded, especially if the borrower is risky and previously was just \outside the money." I do not find, however, that borrowers change the loan amounts they request or that their probability of default rises. On the other hand, the interest rate paid rises slightly, probably because online lending is substantially, yet imperfectly, integrated with the general credit market.
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