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Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data

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  • David B. Gross
  • Nicholas S. Souleles

Abstract

This paper utilizes a unique new dataset of credit card accounts to analyze how people respond to changes in credit supply. The data consist of a panel of thousands of individual credit card accounts from several different card issuers, with associated credit bureau data. We estimate both marginal propensities to consume (MPCs) out of liquidity and interest-rate elasticities. We also evaluate the ability of different models of consumption to rationalize our results, distinguishing the Permanent-Income Hypothesis (PIH), liquidity constraints, precautionary saving, and behavioral models. We find that increases in credit limits generate an immediate and significant rise in debt, counter to the PIH. The average 'MPC out of liquidity' (dDebt/dLimit) ranges between 10%-14%. The MPC is much larger for people starting near their limits, consistent with binding liquidity constraints. However, the MPC is significant even for people starting well below their limit. We show this response is consistent with buffer-stock models of precautionary saving. Nonetheless there are other results that conventional models cannot easily explain, e.g. why so many people are borrowing on their credit cards, and simultaneously holding low yielding assets. Unlike most other studies, we also find strong effects from changes in account-specific interest rates. The long-run elasticity of debt to the interest rate is approximately -1.3. Less than half of this elasticity represents balance-shifting across cards, with most reflecting net changes in total borrowing. The elasticity is larger for decreases in interest rates than for increases, which can explain the widespread use of temporary promotional rates. The elasticity is smaller for people starting near their credit limits, again consistent with liquidity constraints.

Suggested Citation

  • David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data," NBER Working Papers 8314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8314
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Casey B. Mulligan, 2002. "Capital, Interest, and Aggregate Intertemporal Substitution," NBER Working Papers 9373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Carol C. Bertaut & Michael Haliassos, 2001. "Debt Revolvers for Self Control," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 0208, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
    3. Ji, Tingting, 2004. "Essays on consumer portfolio choice and credit risk," MPRA Paper 3161, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Sougata Kerr & Lucia Dunn & Stephen Cosslett, 2004. "Do Banks Use Private Information from Consumer Accounts? Evidence of Relationship Lending in Credit Card Interest Rate Heterogeneity," Working Papers 04-08, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
    5. David B. Gross, 2002. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(1), pages 319-347, March.
    6. Shin-Ichi Nishiyama, 2011. "The Cross-Euler Equation Approach to testing for the Liquidity Constraint: Evidence from Macro and Micro Data," TERG Discussion Papers 273, Graduate School of Economics and Management, Tohoku University.
    7. Tatiane Almeida De Menezes & Isabel Raposo, 2011. "Wage Differentials By Firm Size: Theefficiency Wage Test In Brazil," Anais do XXXVIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 38th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 236, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    8. Isabel Raposo & Tatiane Menezes, 2011. "Wage Differentials By Firm Size: The Efficiency Wage Test In A Developing Country," ERSA conference papers ersa11p1465, European Regional Science Association.
    9. Edelberg, Wendy, 2006. "Risk-based pricing of interest rates for consumer loans," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 2283-2298, November.
    10. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Limited Asset Market Participation and the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," NBER Working Papers 8896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E51 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Money Supply; Credit; Money Multipliers

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