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Screening Peers Softly: Inferring the Quality of Small Borrowers

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  • Rajkamal Iyer
  • Asim Ijaz Khwaja
  • Erzo F.P. Luttmer
  • Kelly Shue

Abstract

The recent banking crisis highlights the challenges faced in credit intermediation. New online peer-to-peer lending markets offer opportunities to examine lending models that primarily cater to small borrowers and that generate more types of information on which to screen. This paper evaluates screening in a peer-to-peer market where lenders observe both standard financial information and soft, or nonstandard, information about borrower quality. Our methodology takes advantage of the fact that while lenders do not observe a borrower's exact credit score, we do. We find that lenders are able to predict default with 45% greater accuracy than what is achievable based on just the borrower's credit score, the traditional measure of creditworthiness used by banks. We further find that lenders effectively use nonstandard or soft information and that such information is relatively more important when screening borrowers of lower credit quality. In addition to estimating the overall inference of creditworthiness, we also find that lenders infer a third of the variation in the dimension of creditworthiness that is captured by the credit score. This credit-score inference relies primarily upon standard hard information, but still draws relatively more from softer or less standard information when screening lower-quality borrowers. Our results highlight the importance of screening mechanisms that rely on soft information, especially in settings targeted at smaller borrowers.

Suggested Citation

  • Rajkamal Iyer & Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Erzo F.P. Luttmer & Kelly Shue, 2009. "Screening Peers Softly: Inferring the Quality of Small Borrowers," NBER Working Papers 15242, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15242
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    Cited by:

    1. Gregory F Udell, 2015. "SME Access to Intermediated Credit: What Do We Know and What Don't We Know?," RBA Annual Conference Volume,in: Angus Moore & John Simon (ed.), Small Business Conditions and Finance Reserve Bank of Australia.
    2. Belleflamme, Paul & Omrani, Nessrine & Peitz, Martin, 2015. "The economics of crowdfunding platforms," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 11-28.
    3. repec:eee:ecmode:v:68:y:2018:i:c:p:634-643 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Oren Rigbi, 2013. "The Effects of Usury Laws: Evidence from the Online Loan Market," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(4), pages 1238-1248, October.
    5. Aadil Nakhoda, 2013. "Bank Competition and Export Diversification," EERI Research Paper Series EERI RP 2013/12, Economics and Econometrics Research Institute (EERI), Brussels.
    6. repec:pal:compes:v:60:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1057_s41294-017-0045-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Qizhi Tao & Yizhe Dong & Ziming Lin, 0. "Who can get money? Evidence from the Chinese peer-to-peer lending platform," Information Systems Frontiers, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-17.
    8. Miller, Sarah, 2015. "Information and default in consumer credit markets: Evidence from a natural experiment," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 45-70.
    9. repec:spr:fininn:v:2:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1186_s40854-016-0048-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Lars Hornuf, 2016. "The Emergence of the Global Fintech Market: Economic and Technological Determinants," IAAEG Discussion Papers until 2011 201606, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).
    11. Freedman, Seth & Jin, Ginger Zhe, 2017. "The information value of online social networks: Lessons from peer-to-peer lending," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 185-222.
    12. Christian Haddad & Lars Hornuf, 2016. "The Emergence of the Global Fintech Market: Economic and Technological Determinants," CESifo Working Paper Series 6131, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. Efraim Berkovich, 2011. "Search and herding effects in peer-to-peer lending: evidence from prosper.com," Annals of Finance, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 389-405, August.
    14. repec:spr:infosf:v:19:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10796-017-9751-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:spr:fininn:v:1:y:2015:i:1:d:10.1186_s40854-015-0004-7 is not listed on IDEAS

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    JEL classification:

    • D53 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Financial Markets
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce

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