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Regulating Consumer Credit with Over-Optimistic Borrowers


  • Florian Exler

    (University of Vienna)

  • Igor Livshits

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia)

  • James MacGee

    (University of Western Ontario)

  • Michele Tertilt

    (University of Mannheim)


We quantitatively analyze consumer credit markets with behavioral consumers and default. Our model incorporates over-optimistic and rational borrower types into a standard incomplete markets with consumer bankruptcy framework. Lenders price credit endogenously, forming beliefs - type scores - about borrowers' types. Since over-optimistic borrowers incorrectly believe they have rational beliefs, lenders do not need to take strategic behavior into account when updating type scores. We find that the partial pooling of over-optimistic with rational borrowers results in spill-overs across types via interest rates, with over-optimists being cross-subsidized by rational consumers who have lower default rates. Higher interest rates lower the average debt level of realists compared to a world without over-optimists. Due to overestimating their ability to repay, over-optimists borrow too much. We evaluate three policies to address these frictions: reducing the cost of default, educating over-optimists about their true type, and increasing borrowing cost. Of the three, only the lower default costs improve the welfare of over-optimists. However, rational consumers are made worse off by that policy.

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  • Florian Exler & Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michele Tertilt, 2018. "Regulating Consumer Credit with Over-Optimistic Borrowers," 2018 Meeting Papers 1064, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed018:1064

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