Debt Collection Agencies and the Supply of Consumer Credit
I examine the role of third-party debt collectors in consumer credit markets. Using law enforcement as an instrument for the number of debt collectors, I find that higher density of debt collectors increases the supply of unsecured credit. The estimated elasticity of the average credit card balance with respect to the number of debt collectors per capita is 0.49, the elasticity of the average balance on non-credit card unsecured loans with respect to the number of debt collectors per capita is 1.32. I also find evidence that creditors substitute unsecured credit for secured credit when the number of debt collectors increases. Higher density of debt collectors improves recoveries, which enables lenders to extend morecredit. Finally, creditors charge higher interest rates and lend to a larger pool of borrowers when the density of debt collectors increases, presumably because better collections enable them to extend credit to riskier applicants.
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