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Debt Revolvers for Self Control

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  • Carol C. Bertaut
  • Michael Haliassos

Abstract

By 1998, about two-thirds of U.S. households held a bank-type credit card. Despite high interest rates, most revolve credit card debt. The majority of debt revolvers have substantial liquid assets, apparently violating arbitrage. We propose an "accountant-shopper" model that could provide an explanation for this puzzle. In our model, the "accountant self" (or spouse) of the household can control the expenditures of the "shopper self" (or spouse) by limiting the purchases the shopper can make before encountering the credit limit. Since the card balance is used for control purposes, the accountant self may also find it optimal to save in lower-return riskless assets. Using attitudinal responses and demographic data from the pooled 1995 and 1998 Surveys of Consumer Finances, we estimate a bivariate probit model of the decisions to have a credit card and to revolve debt on it, allowing for sample selection. The pattern of estimated coefficients is consistent with debt revolvers being motivated primarily by self-control considerations rather than intertemporal consumption smoothing.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucy:cypeua:0208
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Irina A. Telyukova, 2013. "Household Need for Liquidity and the Credit Card Debt Puzzle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(3), pages 1148-1177.
    2. Chao Gu & Fabrizio Mattesini & Cyril Monnet & Randall Wright, 2013. "Endogenous Credit Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(5), pages 940-965.
    3. Agarwal, Sumit & Chomsisengphet, Souphala & Liu, Chunlin & Souleles, Nicholas S., 2005. "Do consumers choose the right credit contracts?," CFS Working Paper Series 2005/32, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    4. Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2010. "Present-Biased Preferences and Credit Card Borrowing," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 193-210, January.
    5. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2005. "Estimating Discount Functions with Consumption Choices over the Lifecycle," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000643, UCLA Department of Economics.
    6. Irina A. Telyukova & Randall Wright, 2008. "A Model of Money and Credit, with Application to the Credit Card Debt Puzzle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(2), pages 629-647.
    7. Michael Haliassos & Christis Hassapis & Alex Karagrigoriou & George Kyriacou & Michalis C. Michael & George Syrichas, 2003. "Debts of Cyprus Households: Lessons from the First Cyprus Survey of Consumer Finances," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 4-2003, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
    8. Zinman, Jonathan, 2009. "Debit or credit?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 358-366, February.
    9. Dean S. Karlan, 2005. "Using Experimental Economics to Measure Social Capital and Predict Financial Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1688-1699, December.
    10. Irina Grafova, 2007. "Your Money or Your Life: Managing Health, Managing Money," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 28(2), pages 285-303, June.
    11. Ching, Andrew T. & Hayashi, Fumiko, 2010. "Payment card rewards programs and consumer payment choice," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(8), pages 1773-1787, August.
    12. Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2007. "Impatience and credit behavior: evidence from a field experiment," Working Papers 07-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    13. Jonathan Zinman, 2004. "Why use debit instead of credit? Consumer choice in a trillion-dollar market," Staff Reports 191, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    14. Edward C. Lawrence & Gregory Elliehausen, 2008. "A Comparative Analysis Of Payday Loan Customers," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(2), pages 299-316, April.

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