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Measuring aversion to debt: an experiment among student loan candidates

  • Caetano, Gregorio
  • Patrinos, Harry A.
  • Palacios, Miguel

This paper reports the results of an experiment designed to test for the presence of debt aversion. The population who participated in the experiment were recent financial aid candidates and the experiment focused on student loans. The goal is to shed new light on different aspects of the perceptions with respect to debt. These perceptions can prevent agents from choosing an optimal portfolio or from undertaking attractive investment opportunities, such as in education. The study design disentangles two types of debt aversion: one that is studied in the previous literature, which encompasses both framing and labeling effects, and another that controls for framing effects and identifies only what we denote labeling debt aversion. The results suggest that participants in the experiment exhibit debt aversion, and most of the debt aversion is due to labeling effects. Labeling a contract as a"loan"'decreases its probability of being chosen over a financially equivalent contract by more than 8 percent. The analysis also provides evidence that students are willing to pay a premium of about 4 percent of the financed value to avoid a contract labeled as debt.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5737.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2011
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5737
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  1. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," Working Papers 653, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio & Terlizzese, Daniele, 1996. "Income Risk, Borrowing Constraints, and Portfolio Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 158-72, March.
  3. Pedro Carneiro & James J. Heckman, 2002. "The Evidence on Credit Constraints in Post-Secondary Schooling," NBER Working Papers 9055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Erica Field, 2009. "Educational Debt Burden and Career Choice: Evidence from a Financial Aid Experiment at NYU Law School," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 1-21, January.
  5. Alan Krueger & Orley Ashenfelter, 1992. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling from a New Sample of Twins," NBER Working Papers 4143, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2003. "An Empirical Analysis of the Risk Properties of Human Capital Returns," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 948-964, June.
  7. Zhang, Harold H, 1997. " Endogenous Borrowing Constraints with Incomplete Markets," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(5), pages 2187-2209, December.
  8. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters, in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. George Psacharopoulos & Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2004. "Returns to investment in education: a further update," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(2), pages 111-134.
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