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Your house or your credit card, which would you choose?: personal delinquency tradeoffs and precautionary liquidity motives

Author

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  • Ethan Cohen-Cole
  • Jonathan Morse

Abstract

This paper finds strong evidence that many individuals choose to pay credit card bills even at the cost of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures. While the popular press and some recent literature have suggested that this choice may emerge from steep declines in housing prices, we find evidence that individual-level liquidity concerns are at least as important in the decision. That is, choosing credit cards over housing suggests a precautionary liquidity preference. ; By linking the mortgage delinquency decisions to individual-level credit conditions, we are able to assess the compound impact of reductions in housing prices and retrenchment in the credit markets. Indeed, we find the availability of cash-equivalent credit to be a key component of the default decision. We find that a one standard deviation reduction in housing price changes elicits a change in the predicted probability of mortgage default that is similar in both direction and magnitude to a one standard deviation reduction in available credit (the values are -14.9% and -13.1% respectively). Availability of consumer credit appears important not only as a means of payment, but also as an insurance mechanism for individuals and a shock absorber for the economy as a whole. Our findings are consistent with consumer finance literature that finds individuals have a preference for preserving liquidity - even at significant cost.

Suggested Citation

  • Ethan Cohen-Cole & Jonathan Morse, 2009. "Your house or your credit card, which would you choose?: personal delinquency tradeoffs and precautionary liquidity motives," Risk and Policy Analysis Unit Working Paper QAU09-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbqu:qau09-5
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Li, Xianghong & Zhao, Xinlei, 2016. "Strategic Default Induced by Loan Modification Programs," MPRA Paper 73594, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Trautmann, Stefan T. & Vlahu, Razvan, 2013. "Strategic loan defaults and coordination: An experimental analysis," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 747-760.
    3. Christopher Mayer & Edward Morrison & Tomasz Piskorski & Arpit Gupta, 2014. "Mortgage Modification and Strategic Behavior: Evidence from a Legal Settlement with Countrywide," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(9), pages 2830-2857, September.
    4. Ronel Elul & Nicholas S. Souleles & Souphala Chomsisengphet & Dennis Glennon & Robert Hunt, 2010. "What "Triggers" Mortgage Default?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 490-494, May.
    5. Karikari, John A., 2013. "Why homeowners’ documentation went missing under the Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP)?: An analysis of strategic behavior of homeowners and servicers," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 146-162.
    6. Donghoon Lee & Christopher Mayer & Joseph Tracy, 2012. "A New Look at Second Liens," NBER Chapters,in: Housing and the Financial Crisis, pages 205-234 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    Keywords

    Finance; Personal ; Credit cards ; Liquidity (Economics) ; Mortgage loans;

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