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Mortgage Choice as a Natural Field Experiment on Choice Under Risk


  • Philomena M. Bacon

    (University of East Anglia)

  • Peter Moffatt

    () (School of Economics, University of East Anglia)


Microdata from the UK Survey of Mortgage Lenders is used to model borrowers' choices between variable and fixed rate mortgages. The data is treated as a large-scale "natural experiment" on risky choice, with the choice of a fixed rate corresponding to the "safe choice" in a more conventional experimental setting. The choice is assumed to depend partly on risk attitude, and partly on expectations of future movements in interest rates. Approximately 280,000 choices, made by borrowers between 1992 and 2001, appear in the sample. The ordered probit model is used for estimation, while taking account of a number of econometric issues including missing counterfactuals, selectivity, and endogeneity. Explanatory variables are divided into three groups: mortgage price variables; interest rate expectations; and borrower characteristics. A large number of strong effects are found, including: fixing is more likely when agents expect interest rates to increase; the presence of female borrowers increases the propensity to fix; older borrowers are less likely to fix; high-income borrowers are less likely to fix, particularly so if income is "self-certified"; those with higher loan-to-value ratios are less likely to fix. These findings amount to new insights in the modelling of choice under risk.Series: University of East Anglia Applied and Financial Economics Working Paper Series

Suggested Citation

  • Philomena M. Bacon & Peter Moffatt, 2010. "Mortgage Choice as a Natural Field Experiment on Choice Under Risk," University of East Anglia Applied and Financial Economics Working Paper Series 020, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
  • Handle: RePEc:uea:aepppr:2010_20

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard A. Phillips & James H. VanderHoff, 1994. "Alternative Mortgage Instruments, Qualification Constraints and the Demand for Housing: An Empirical Analysis," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 22(3), pages 453-477.
    2. Thierry Post & Martijn J. van den Assem & Guido Baltussen & Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Deal or No Deal? Decision Making under Risk in a Large-Payoff Game Show," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 38-71, March.
    3. Masclet, David & Colombier, Nathalie & Denant-Boemont, Laurent & Lohéac, Youenn, 2009. "Group and individual risk preferences: A lottery-choice experiment with self-employed and salaried workers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 470-484, June.
    4. David Masclet & Youenn Loheac & Laurent Denant-Boemont & Nathalie Colombier, 2004. "Group and individual risk preferences : a lottery-choice experiment," Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques bla06063, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), revised Sep 2006.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ehrmann, Michael & Ziegelmeyer, Michael, 2014. "Household Risk Management and Actual Mortgage Choice in the Euro Area," MEA discussion paper series 201406, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    2. Byrne, David & Kelly, Robert & O'Toole, Conor, 2017. "How does monetary policy pass-through affect mortgage default? Evidence from the Irish mortgage market," Research Technical Papers 04/RT/17, Central Bank of Ireland.
    3. repec:mea:meawpa:14283 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:ksa:szemle:1724 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Alexander N. Bogin & William M. Doerner & William D. Larson, 2016. "Missing the Mark: House Price Index Accuracy and Mortgage Credit Modeling," Working Papers 2016-010, The George Washington University, Department of Economics, Research Program on Forecasting.
    6. Michael Richter, 2017. "Asymmetric Effects on Financial Cycles in a Monetary Union with Diverging Country Preferences for Variable- and Fixed-Rate Mortgages," Review of Economics & Finance, Better Advances Press, Canada, vol. 7, pages 19-36, February.
    7. Bouyon, Sylvain, 2017. "Recent Trends and Developments in European Mortgage Markets," ECRI Papers 12596, Centre for European Policy Studies.

    More about this item


    risky choice; fixed and variable rate mortgages; counterfactuals; interest rate expectations; ordered probit.;

    JEL classification:

    • G20 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - General
    • M13 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - New Firms; Startups

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