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

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Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Seth Freedman & Ginger Zhe Jin, 2008. "Do Social Networks Solve Information Problems for Peer-to-Peer Lending? Evidence from Prosper.com," Working Papers 08-43, NET Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0843
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    1. 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 445-454, August.
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    5. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1995. "Group lending, repayment incentives and social collateral," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-18, February.
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    8. Paul R. Milgrom, 1981. "Good News and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(2), pages 380-391, Autumn.
    9. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    peer-to-peer lending; e-commerce; adverse selection; information asymmetry; social networks.;

    JEL classification:

    • D45 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Rationing; Licensing
    • D53 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Financial Markets
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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