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Credit Building or Credit Crumbling? A Credit Builder Loan’s Effects on Consumer Behavior, Credit Scores and Their Predictive Power

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Listed:
  • Jeremy Burke
  • Julian Jamison
  • Dean Karlan
  • Kata Mihaly
  • Jonathan Zinman

Abstract

How does the large market for credit score improvement products affect consumers and market efficiency? For consumers, we use a randomized encouragement design on a standard credit builder loan (CBL) and find null average effects on scores. But a generalized random forest algorithm finds important heterogeneity, most starkly with respect to baseline installment credit activity. CBLs induce delinquency on pre-existing loan obligations, suggesting that even a seemingly modest additional claim on monthly cash flows is too much for many consumers to manage. For the market, CBL take-up reveals information: takers experience future score improvements relative to non-takers, which, given null average treatment effects, implies positive selection. However, we find suggestive evidence that the CBL weakens the score’s power for predicting default in some cases. We propose simple changes, to CBL provider strategy and credit bureau reporting categories, that could produce more uniformly positive effects for both individuals and the market.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeremy Burke & Julian Jamison & Dean Karlan & Kata Mihaly & Jonathan Zinman, 2019. "Credit Building or Credit Crumbling? A Credit Builder Loan’s Effects on Consumer Behavior, Credit Scores and Their Predictive Power," NBER Working Papers 26110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26110
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Andrew Hertzberg & José María Liberti & Daniel Paravisini, 2011. "Public Information and Coordination: Evidence from a Credit Registry Expansion," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(2), pages 379-412, April.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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