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Who Bears the Welfare Costs of Monopoly? The Case of the Credit Card Industry

Author

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  • Gajendran Raveendranathan

    (McMaster University)

  • Kyle Herkenhoff

    (University of Minnesota)

Abstract

How are the welfare costs from monopoly borne? We answer this question in the context of the U.S. credit card industry, which is highly concentrated, charges interest rates that are 3.4 to 8.8 percentage points above competitive pricing, generates excess profits, and has repeatedly lost antitrust lawsuits. We depart from existing consumer credit models that assume perfect competition (e.g. Livshits, MacGee, and Tertilt (2007,2010) and Chatterjee, Corbae, Nakajima, and Rios-Rull, 2007), by integrating oligopolistic lenders into a Bewley-Huggett-Aiyagariframework. Our model accounts for roughly half of the spreads and excess profits observed in the data. The welfare gains to the current population from competitive reforms in the credit card industry are equivalent to a onetime transfer to households worth 3.4 percent of GDP. Along the transition path, all cohorts realize welfare gains from competitive reforms. Asset poor households benefit the most from increased consumption smoothing. Asset rich households also benefit from higher general equilibrium saving interest rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Gajendran Raveendranathan & Kyle Herkenhoff, 2019. "Who Bears the Welfare Costs of Monopoly? The Case of the Credit Card Industry," 2019 Meeting Papers 67, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed019:67
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    File URL: https://economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2019/paper_67.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jaromir B. Nosal & Lukasz A. Drozd, 2008. "Competing for Customers: A Search Model of the Market for Unsecured Credit," 2008 Meeting Papers 274, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michèle Tertilt, 2010. "Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 165-193, April.
    3. Gajendran Raveendranathan, 2018. "Improved Matching, Directed Search, and Bargaining in the Credit Card Market," Department of Economics Working Papers 2018-05, McMaster University.
    4. Kyle Herkenhoff, 2016. "The Impact of Consumer Credit Access on Employment, Earnings and Entrepreneurship," 2016 Meeting Papers 781, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Sumit Agarwal & Souphala Chomsisengphet & Neale Mahoney & Johannes Stroebel, 2015. "Regulating Consumer Financial Products: Evidence from Credit Cards," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(1), pages 111-164.
    6. Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michèle Tertilt, 2007. "Consumer Bankruptcy: A Fresh Start," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 402-418, March.
    7. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
    8. James A. Schmitz, 2012. "New and Larger Costs of Monopoly and Tariffs," Economic Policy Paper 12-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    9. Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau & Etienne Wasmer, 2013. "The Cyclical Volatility of Labor Markets under Frictional Financial Markets," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 193-221, January.
    10. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae & Makoto Nakajima & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2007. "A Quantitative Theory of Unsecured Consumer Credit with Risk of Default," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(6), pages 1525-1589, November.
    11. Igor Livshits & James C. Mac Gee & Michèle Tertilt, 2016. "The Democratization of Credit and the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(4), pages 1673-1710.
    12. Lukasz A. Drozd & Ricardo Serrano-Padial, 2017. "Modeling the Revolving Revolution: The Debt Collection Channel," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(3), pages 897-930, March.
    13. Fatih Guvenen & Serdar Ozkan & Jae Song, 2014. "The Nature of Countercyclical Income Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(3), pages 621-660.
    14. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Costa, Daniela & Kamali, Parisa & Kehoe, Timothy J. & Nygard, Vegard M. & Raveendranathan, Gajendran & Saxena, Akshar, 2018. "Macroeconomic effects of Medicare," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 11(C), pages 27-40.
    15. J. Carter Braxton & Gordon Phillips & Kyle Herkenhoff, 2018. "Can the Unemployed Borrow? Implications for Public Insurance," 2018 Meeting Papers 564, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    16. Ausubel, Lawrence M, 1991. "The Failure of Competition in the Credit Card Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 50-81, March.
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    18. Mateos-Planas, Xavier & Seccia, Giulio, 2006. "Welfare implications of endogenous credit limits with bankruptcy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 30(11), pages 2081-2115, November.
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