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Do Social Networks Solve Information Problems for Peer-to-Peer Lending? Evidence from Prosper.com

This paper studies peer-to-peer (p2p) lending on the Internet. Prosper.com, the first p2p lending website in the US, matches individual lenders and borrowers for unsecured consumer loans. Using transaction data from June 1, 2006 to July 31, 2008, we examine what information problems exist on Prosper and whether social networks help alleviate the information problems. As we expect, data identifies three information problems on Prosper.com. First, Prosper lenders face extra adverse selection because they observe categories of credit grades rather than the actual credit scores. This selection is partially offset when Prosper posts more detailed credit information on the website. Second, many Prosper lenders have made mistakes in loan selection but they learn vigorously over time. Third, as Stiglitz and Weiss (1981) predict, a higher interest rate can imply lower rate of return because higher interest attracts lower quality borrowers. Micro-finance theories argue that social networks may identify good risks either because friends and colleagues observe the intrinsic type of borrowers ex ante or because the monitoring within social networks provides a stronger incentive to pay off loans ex post. We find evidence both for and against this argument. For example, loans with friend endorsements and friend bids have fewer missed payments and yield significantly higher rates of return than other loans. On the other hand, the estimated returns of group loans are significantly lower than those of non-group loans. That being said, the return gap between group and non-group loans is closing over time. This convergence is partially due to lender learning and partially due to Prosper eliminating group leader rewards which motivated leaders to fund lower quality loans in order to earn the rewards.

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File URL: http://www.netinst.org/Freedman_Jin_08-43.pdf
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Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 08-43.

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Length: 62 pages
Date of creation: 14 Nov 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0843
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.NETinst.org/

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  1. Andrew Kato & Ginger Jin, 2004. "Dividing online and offline: A case study," Natural Field Experiments 00276, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. 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.
  3. Besley, T. & Coate, S., 1991. "Group Lending, Repayment Incentives And Social Collateral," Papers 152, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  4. Berger, Allen N & Udell, Gregory F, 1992. "Some Evidence on the Empirical Significance of Credit Rationing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 1047-77, October.
  5. Paul R. Milgrom, 1979. "Good Nevs and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Discussion Papers 407R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  6. Cox, Donald & Jappelli, Tullio, 1990. "Credit Rationing and Private Transfers: Evidence from Survey Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(3), pages 445-54, August.
  7. Voridis, Hercules, 1993. "Ceilings on Interest Rates and Investment: The Example of Greece," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 75(2), pages 276-83, May.
  8. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "The Informational Role of Warranties and Private Disclosure about Product Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 461-83, December.
  9. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
  10. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
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