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


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


We test the interest rate sensitivity of sub-prime 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 non-experimental 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

Suggested Citation

  • Loranth, Gyongyi & Alan, Sule & Dumitrescu, Ruxandra, 2011. "Subprime consumer credit demand: evidence from a lender's pricing experiment," Working Paper Series 1304, European Central Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20111304

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. William Adams & Liran Einav & Jonathan Levin, 2009. "Liquidity Constraints and Imperfect Information in Subprime Lending," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 49-84, March.
    4. Attanasio, Orazio P, et al, 1999. "Humps and Bumps in Lifetime Consumption," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(1), pages 22-35, January.
    5. 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.
    6. 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, March.
    7. John List & Sally Sadoff & Mathis Wagner, 2011. "So you want to run an experiment, now what? Some simple rules of thumb for optimal experimental design," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(4), pages 439-457, November.
    8. Dean S. Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2008. "Credit Elasticities in Less-Developed Economies: Implications for Microfinance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 1040-1068, June.
    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. Christopher A. Pissarides, 1978. "Liquidity Considerations in the Theory of Consumption," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 92(2), pages 279-296.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cláudio Ribeiro de Lucinda & Rodrigo Luiz Vieira, 2011. "An Experimental Analysis of the Brazilian Personal Credit Market," Working Papers 10-2011, Universidade de São Paulo, Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade de Ribeirão Preto.
    2. repec:eee:ecolet:v:156:y:2017:i:c:p:155-158 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Helen Higgs & Andrew C. Worthington, 2011. "Price and income elasticity of Australian retail finance: An autoregressive distributed lag (ARDL) approach," Discussion Papers in Finance finance:201117, Griffith University, Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics.
    4. Cho, Sung-Jin & Rust, John, 2012. "Does Zero Interest Work as An Important Marketing Tool?," Research Center for Price Dynamics Working Paper Series 5, Research Center for Price Dynamics, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    5. de Lucinda, Claudio Ribeiro & Vieira, Rodrigo Luiz, 2014. "Interest Rates and Informational Issues in the Credit Market: Experimental Evidence from Brazil," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 47-58.
    6. Dawsey, Amanda E., 2015. "State bankruptcy laws and the responsiveness of credit card demand," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 54-76.
    7. Lukas, Moritz & Nöth, Markus, 2016. "Commitment and Borrower Heterogeneity: Evidence from Revolving Consumer Credit," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145870, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    8. Sung-Jin Cho & John Rust, 2015. "Precommitments for Financial Self-Control:Evidence from Credit Card Borrowing," 2015 Meeting Papers 33, Society for Economic Dynamics.

    More about this item


    liquidity constraints; randomized trials; subprime credit;

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance

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