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Financial Literacy and High-Cost Borrowing in the United States

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  • Annamaria Lusardi
  • Carlo de Bassa Scheresberg

Abstract

In this paper, we examine high-cost methods of borrowing in the United States, such as payday loans, pawn shops, auto title loans, refund anticipation loans, and rent-to-own shops, and offer a portrait of borrowers who use these methods. Considering a representative sample of more than 26,000 respondents, we find that about one in four Americans has used one of these methods in the past five years. Moreover, many young adults engage in high-cost borrowing: 34 percent of young respondents (aged 18-34) and 43 percent of young respondents with a high school degree have used one of these methods. Using well-tested questions to measure financial literacy, we document that most high-cost borrowers display very low levels of financial literacy, i.e., they lack numeracy and do not possess knowledge of basic financial concepts. Most importantly, we find that those who are more financially literate are much less likely to have engaged in high-cost borrowing. Our empirical work shows that it is not only the shocks inflicted by the financial crisis or the structure of the financial system but that the level of financial literacy also plays a role in explaining why so many individuals have made use of high-cost borrowing methods.

Suggested Citation

  • Annamaria Lusardi & Carlo de Bassa Scheresberg, 2013. "Financial Literacy and High-Cost Borrowing in the United States," NBER Working Papers 18969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18969
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2007. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions Over the Lifecycle," NBER Working Papers 13191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Curto, Vilsa, 2012. "Financial sophistication in the older population," CFS Working Paper Series 2012/08, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    3. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2011. "Financial literacy and retirement planning in the United States," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(4), pages 509-525, October.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Marco Nieddu & Lorenzo Pandolfi, 2018. "Cutting Through the Fog: Financial Literacy and the Subjective Value of Financial Assets," CSEF Working Papers 497, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    2. G. Gulsun Akin & Ahmet Faruk Aysan & Sezgim Dasdogen & Levent Yildiran, 2019. "Credit Card Debt: Nescience or Necessity?," Working Papers 1315, Economic Research Forum, revised 21 Aug 2019.
    3. Lyons, Angela C. & Grable, John E. & Zeng, Ting, 2019. "Impacts of Financial Literacy on the Loan Decisions of Financially Excluded Households in the People's Republic of China," ADBI Working Papers 923, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    4. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell & Noemi Oggero, 2017. "Debt and Financial Vulnerability on the Verge of Retirement," NBER Working Papers 23664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Aiba, Daiju & Odajima, Ken & Khou, Vouthy, 2018. "Foreign currency borrowing and risk-hedging behavior: Evidence from Cambodian households," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 19-35.
    6. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2017. "Older Women's Labor Market Attachment, Retirement Planning, and Household Debt," NBER Chapters, in: Women Working Longer: Increased Employment at Older Ages, pages 185-215, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Agarwal, Sumit & Chomsisengphet, Souphala & Zhang, Yunqi, 2017. "How does working in a finance profession affect mortgage delinquency?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 1-13.
    8. Craig Gundersen & David R. Just & Judith Bartfeld & J. Michael Collins, 2017. "Food Insecurity, Financial Shocks, and Financial Coping Strategies among Households with Elementary School Children in Wisconsin," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 519-548, November.
    9. French, Declan & McKillop, Donal, 2016. "Financial literacy and over-indebtedness in low-income households," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 1-11.
    10. Lisa J. Dettling & Joanne W. Hsu, 2017. "Minimum Wages and Consumer Credit : Impacts on Access to Credit and Traditional and High-Cost Borrowing," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2017-010, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), revised 15 Jan 2017.
    11. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2013. "Older Adult Debt and Financial Frailty," Working Papers wp291, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    12. Lin, Chaonan & Hsiao, Yu-Jen & Yeh, Cheng-Yung, 2017. "Financial literacy, financial advisors, and information sources on demand for life insurance," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 218-237.
    13. Shen, Chung-Hua & Lin, Shih-Jie & Tang, De-Piao & Hsiao, Yu-Jen, 2016. "The relationship between financial disputes and financial literacy," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 46-65.
    14. Beckmann, Elisabeth & Stix, Helmut, 2015. "Foreign currency borrowing and knowledge about exchange rate risk," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 1-16.
    15. Kabir Dasgupta & Brenden J. Mason, 2019. "The Effect of Interest Rate Caps on Bankruptcy: Synthetic Control Evidence from Recent Payday Lending Bans," Working Papers 2019-04, Auckland University of Technology, Department of Economics.

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    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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