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Subprime consumer credit demand: evidence from a lender's pricing experiment

  • Alan, Sule
  • Dumitrescu, Ruxandra
  • Loranth, Gyongyi

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. JEL Classification: D11, D12, D14

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Paper provided by European Central Bank in its series Working Paper Series with number 1304.

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Date of creation: Feb 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20111304
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  1. 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.
  2. John A. List & Sally Sadoff & Mathis Wagner, 2010. "So you want to run an experiment, now what? Some Simple Rules of Thumb for Optimal Experimental Design," CeRP Working Papers 94, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  3. 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.
  4. Orazio Attanasio & James Banks & Costas Meghir & Guglielmo Weber, 1995. "Humps and bumps in lifetime consumption," IFS Working Papers W95/14, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  5. Alessie, Rob & Hochguertel, Stefan & Weber, Guglielmo, 2001. "Consumer Credit: Evidence from Italian Micro Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 3071, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Sule Alan, 2006. "Entry Costs and Stock Market Participation over the Life Cycle," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 588-611, October.
  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. 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.
  9. Dehejia, Rajeev & Montgomery, Heather & Morduch, Jonathan, 2005. "Do interest rates matter? credit demand in the Dhaka Slums," MPRA Paper 33146, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  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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