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Interest rate restrictions in a natural experiment: loan allocation and the change in the usury laws in 1714

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  • Joachim Voth
  • Peter Temin

Abstract

This article studies the effects of interest rate restrictions on loan allocation. The British government tightened the usury laws in 1714, reducing the maximum permissible interest rate from 6% to 5%. A sample of individual loan transactions reveals that average loan size and minimum loan size increased strongly, while access to credit worsened for those with little social capital. Collateralised credits, which had accounted for a declining share of total lending, returned to their former role of prominence. Our results suggest that the usury laws distorted credit markets significantly; we find no evidence that they offered a form of Pareto-improving social insurance.

Suggested Citation

  • Joachim Voth & Peter Temin, 2005. "Interest rate restrictions in a natural experiment: loan allocation and the change in the usury laws in 1714," Economics Working Papers 858, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:858
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    Cited by:

    1. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2008. "Debt Sustainability in Historical Perspective: The Role of Fiscal Repression," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 657-667, 04-05.
    2. Raffaella Barone & Donato Masciandaro, 2017. "Crime, Money Laundering, And Credit Markets: Can Usury Exist At The Zero Lower Bound?," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 1761, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    3. Guimarães, Bernardo de Vasconcellos & Salama, Bruno Meyerhof, 2017. "Contingent judicial deference: theory and application to usury laws," Textos para discussão 440, FGV/EESP - Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
    4. Dwarkasing, N.R.D., 2014. "Essays on historical banking," Other publications TiSEM c101ecf0-6709-4fb7-a27a-4, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    5. repec:eee:exehis:v:65:y:2017:i:c:p:68-93 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2008. "Occupational Choice and the Spirit of Capitalism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 747-793.
    7. Mike Anson & David Bholat Author-Name-First: David & Miao Kang & Ryland Thomas, 2017. "The Bank of England as Lender of Last Resort: New historical evidence from daily transactional data," Working Papers 0117, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    8. Howard Bodenhorn, 2005. "Usury Ceilings, Relationships and Bank Lending Behavior: Evidence from Nineteenth Century," NBER Working Papers 11734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Robert Mayer, 2013. "When and Why Usury Should be Prohibited," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 116(3), pages 513-527, September.
    10. Guimaraesy, Bernardo & Meyerhof Salama, Bruno, 2017. "Contingent judicial deference: theory and application to usury laws," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86146, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    11. Christiaan Bochove, 2014. "External debt and commitment mechanisms: Danish borrowing in Holland, 1763–1825," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(3), pages 652-677, August.
    12. Timur Kuran & Jared Rubin, 2014. "The Financial Power of the Powerless: Socio-Economic Status and Interest Rates under Partial Rule of Law," Working Papers 14-22, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    13. Zegarra, Luis Felipe, 2017. "Usury laws and private credit in Lima, Peru. Evidence from notarized records," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 68-93.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic development; banking; financial repression; usury laws; credit rationing; natural experiments; lending decisions;

    JEL classification:

    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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