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Costly Contracts and Consumer Credit

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Abstract

(Updated February, 2014) Financial innovations are a common explanation for the rise in credit card debt and bankruptcies. To evaluate this story, we develop a simple model that incorporates two key frictions: asymmetric information about borrowers’ risk of default and a fixed cost of developing each contract lenders offer. Innovations that ameliorate asymmetric information or reduce this fixed cost have large extensive margin effects via the entry of new lending contracts targeted at riskier borrowers. This results in more defaults and borrowing, and increased dispersion of interest rates. Using the Survey of Consumer Finances and Federal Reserve Board interest rate data, we find evidence supporting these predictions. Specifically, the dispersion of credit card interest rates nearly tripled while the “new” cardholders of the late 1980s and 1990s had riskier observable characteristics than existing cardholders. Our calculation suggest these new cardholders accounted for over 25% of the rise in bank credit card debt and delinquencies between 1989 and 1998.

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  • Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michèle Tertilt, 2011. "Costly Contracts and Consumer Credit," University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute Working Papers 20111, University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwo:epuwoc:20111
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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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guiso, Luigi & Sodini, Paolo, 2013. "Household Finance: An Emerging Field," Handbook of the Economics of Finance, Elsevier.
    2. Lukasz A. Drozd & Ricardo Serrano-Padial, 2013. "Modeling the credit card revolution: the role of debt collection and informal bankruptcy," Working Papers 13-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    3. Daniel, Sanches, 2011. "A dynamic model of unsecured credit," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(5), pages 1941-1964, September.
    4. Athreya, Kartik & Tam, Xuan S. & Young, Eric R., 2009. "Unsecured credit markets are not insurance markets," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 83-103, January.
    5. Borghan Nezami Narajabad, 2012. "Information Technology and the Rise of Household Bankruptcy," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(4), pages 526-550, October.
    6. Bulent Guler, 2015. "Innovations in Information Technology and the Mortgage Market," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(3), pages 456-483, July.
    7. Kartik B. Athreya & Xuan S. Tam & Eric R. Young, 2009. "Are harsh penalties for default really better?," Working Paper 09-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    8. N. Narajabad, Borghan, 2010. "Information Technology and the Rise of Household Bankruptcy," MPRA Paper 21058, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Luzzetti, Matthew N. & Neumuller, Seth, 2016. "Learning and the dynamics of consumer unsecured debt and bankruptcies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 22-39.
    10. Athreya, Kartik B., 2014. "Big Ideas in Macroeconomics: A Nontechnical View," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262019736, January.
    11. Robert McKeown, 2017. "How vulnerable is the Canadian banking system to fire-sales?," Working Papers 1381, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    12. Jason Allen & H. Evren Damar & David Martinez-Miera, 2012. "Consumer Bankruptcy and Information," Staff Working Papers 12-18, Bank of Canada.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    credit cards; endogenous financial contracts; bankruptcy;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E49 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Other
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • K35 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Personal Bankruptcy Law

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