logo

Research

Google Scholar

SSRN

Working Papers

Do Banks Pass Through Credit Expansions? The Marginal Profitability of Consumer Lending During the Great Recession

Coauthors: Sumit Agarwal, Souphala Chomsisengphet and Neale Mahoney

View Abstract

The effectiveness of bank-mediated stimulatory policy in raising household spending depends on whether banks pass through credit expansions to households with a high marginal propensity to borrow (MPB). We use panel data on 14.2 million U.S. credit card accounts and 812 credit limit regression discontinuities to estimate the MPB for households with different FICO credit scores. We find substantial heterogeneity, with a $1 increase in credit limits raising total unsecured borrowing after 12 months by 58 cents for households with the lowest FICO scores (=660) while having no effect on households with the highest FICO scores (> 740). We use the same credit limit regression discontinuities to estimate banks' marginal propensity to lend (MPL) out of a decrease in their cost of funds. For the lowest FICO score households, higher credit limits quickly raise marginal chargeoffs and reduce marginal fee revenue, limiting the pass-through of credit expansions to those households. We estimate that a 1 percentage point reduction in the cost of funds raises credit limits by $135 for consumers with FICO scores below 660 versus $1,478 for consumers with FICO scores above 740. We conclude that banks have the least incentive to pass through credit expansions to households that want to borrow the most, diminishing the effectiveness of bank-mediated stimulatory policy.

House Prices, Local Demand, and Retail Prices

Coauthor: Joseph Vavra

View Abstract

VoxEU

Citylab

We use detailed micro data to document a causal response of local retail price to changes in house prices, with elasticities of 15%-20% across housing booms and busts. Notably, these price responses are largest in zip codes with many homeowners, and non-existent in zip codes with mostly renters. We provide evidence that these retail price responses are driven by changes in markups rather than by changes in local costs. We then argue that markups rise with house prices, particularly in high homeownership locations, because greater housing wealth reduces homeowners' demand elasticity, and firms raise markups in response. Consistent with this explanation, shopping data confirms that house price changes have opposite effects on the price sensitivity of homeowners and renters. Our evidence has implications for monetary, labor and urban economics, and suggests a new source of markup variation in business cycle models.

No-Bubble Condition: Model-Free Tests in Housing Markets

Coauthors: Stefano Giglio and Matteo Maggiori

View Abstract

VoxEU

We test for the existence of housing bubbles associated with a failure of the transversality condition that requires the present value of payments occurring infinitely far in the future to be zero. The most prominent such bubble is the classic rational bubble. We study housing markets in the U.K. and Singapore, where residential property ownership takes the form of either leaseholds or freeholds. Leaseholds are finite-maturity, pre-paid, and tradable ownership contracts with maturities often exceeding 700 years. Freeholds are infinite-maturity ownership contracts. The price difference between leaseholds with extremely-long maturities and freeholds reflects the present value of a claim to the freehold after leasehold expiry, and is thus a direct empirical measure of the transversality condition. We estimate this price difference, and find no evidence for failures of the transversality condition in housing markets in the U.K. and Singapore, even during periods when a sizeable bubble was regularly thought to be present.

Segmented Housing Search

Revision requested at the American Economic Review

Coauthors: Monika Piazzesi and Martin Schneider

View Abstract

This paper studies housing markets with multiple segments searched by heterogeneous clienteles. We document market and search activity for the San Francisco Bay Area. Variation within narrow geographic areas is large and differs significantly from variation across those areas. In particular, search activity and inventory covary positively within cities and zip codes, but negatively across those units. A quantitative search model shows how the interaction of broad and narrow searchers drives housing market activity at different levels of aggregation and shapes the response to shocks as well as price discounts due to market frictions.

Government Intervention in the Housing Market - Who Wins, Who Loses?

Revision requested at the Journal of Monetary Economics

Coauthors: Max Floetotto and Michael Kirker

View Abstract

We study the effects of government intervention in the housing market on prices, quantities and welfare in a general equilibrium model with heterogeneous agents. We consider (i) the introduction of temporary home purchase tax credits and (ii) a removal of the asymmetric tax treatment of owner-occupied and rental housing. Home buyer tax credits temporarily raise house prices and transaction volumes, but have negative welfare effects. Removing the asymmetric tax treatment of owner-occupied and rental housing would generate welfare gains for a majority of agents in a comparison of stationary equilibria. Welfare impacts are more varied, though still positive, along the transition between steady states.

The Power of the Church - The Role of Roman Catholic Teaching in the Transmission of HIV

Coauthor: Arthur van Benthem

View Abstract

We use the appointment of a Kenyan Roman Catholic archbishop as a natural experiment to analyze the impact of church authorities' teaching on sexual behavior. Using a triple-difference approach, we find that following the archbishop's counter-doctrinal assertion that condom use within a marriage can be acceptable to reduce HIV infections, Catholic married couples within the archdiocese who had access to condoms were 7.0 percentage points more likely to use condoms than unmarried Catholics in the diocese, non-Catholics within the diocese, or Catholics in other dioceses. These results are quantitatively large and robust to a number of econometric specifications. The evidence for whether advocating condom use leads to an increase in infidelity or a decrease in respect for women is not conclusive. Our results suggest an important role for the Catholic church in the fight against HIV. This is especially relevant in light of Pope Benedict XVI's recent reconciliatory statement about condom use.

Foreclosure and Bankruptcy - Policy Conclusions from the Current Crisis

Coauthor: Theresa Kuchler

View Abstract

The recent episode of rising consumer bankruptcies and increasing foreclosure rates has sparked a lively debate about how to best tackle the crisis in the U.S. housing market. We contribute to this debate by providing an explicit model of a household's joint decision to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy and to enter into foreclosure. This model demonstrates how bankruptcy exemption limits and mortgage regulation interact to influence consumer bankruptcy and foreclosure rates. We use state-level data to show that our model predictions are empirically plausible. We suggest that policy proposals need to focus on reducing both foreclosures and bankruptcies jointly. In particular, we argue that in the short-run a switch from non-recourse mortgages to recourse mortgages may have little effect on the number of foreclosures, but could dramatically increase the number of bankruptcies.

Work in Progress

Social Networks and Investment in the Housing Market: Evidence from Facebook

Coauthors: Michael Bailey and Theresa Kuchler

Adverse Selection and Market Power in Credit Card Markets

Coauthors: Sumit Agarwal, Souphala Chomsisengphet, and Neale Mahoney

Published or Forthcoming Papers

Asymmetric Information about Collateral Values

Journal of Finance, Forthcoming

View Abstract

VoxEU

I empirically analyze credit market outcomes when competing lenders are differentially informed about the expected return from making a loan. I study the residential mortgage market where property developers often cooperate with vertically integrated mortgage lenders to offer financing to buyers of new homes. I show that these integrated lenders have superior information about the construction quality of individual homes and exploit this information to lend against higher-quality collateral, decreasing foreclosures by up to 40%. To compensate for this adverse selection on collateral values, non-integrated lenders charge higher interest rates when competing against a better-informed integrated lender.

Testing for Information Asymmetries in Real Estate Markets

Review of Financial Studies, Forthcoming

Coauthor: Pablo Kurlat

View Abstract

In housing markets, neighborhood characteristics are a key source of information heterogeneity: sellers are usually better informed about neighborhood values than buyers are, but some sellers and buyers are better informed than their peers are. Consistent with predictions from a new framework for analyzing such markets with heterogeneous assets and differentially informed agents, we find that changes in the composition of sellers toward more informed sellers and sellers with a larger supply elasticity predict subsequent house price declines. This effect is larger for houses with more price exposure to neighborhood characteristics, and smaller for houses bought by buyers that are more informed.

Very Long-Run Discount Rates

Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(1), February 2015 (Lead Article)

Coauthors: Stefano Giglio and Matteo Maggiori

View Abstract

[WP Version]

Appendix

Data Summary

Data Sets

VoxEU

Winner Jacob Gold & Associates Best Paper Prize, ASU Sonoran Winter Finance Conference, 2014

Winner Glucksman Institute Research Prize, 2015

Media Coverage:

Forbes

Economist [1]

Economist [2]

National Review

CBS News

Business Spectator

We estimate how households trade off immediate costs and uncertain future benefits that occur in the very long run, 100 or more years away. We exploit a unique feature of housing markets in the U.K. and Singapore, where residential property ownership takes the form of either leaseholds or freeholds. Leaseholds are temporary, pre-paid, and tradable ownership contracts with maturities between 99 and 999 years, while freeholds are perpetual ownership contracts. The price difference between leaseholds and freeholds reflects the present value of perpetual rental income starting at leasehold expiry, and is thus informative about very long-run discount rates. We estimate the price discounts for varying leasehold maturities compared to freeholds and extremely long-run leaseholds via hedonic regressions using proprietary datasets of the universe of transactions in each country. Households discount very long-run cash flows at low rates, assigning high present value to cash flows hundreds of years in the future. For example, 100-year leaseholds are valued at more than 10% less than otherwise identical freeholds, implying discount rates below 2.6% for 100-year claims.

Regulating Consumer Financial Products: Evidence from Credit Cards

Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(1), February 2015

Coauthors: Sumit Agarwal, Souphala Chomsisengphet and Neale Mahoney

View Abstract

[WP Version]

Appendix

Media Coverage:

New York Times

Businessweek

Bloomberg

Washington Post

Slate

Fox

Yahoo

US News

We analyze the effectiveness of consumer financial regulation by considering the 2009 Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act. We use a panel data set covering 160 million credit card accounts and a difference-in-differences research design that compares changes in outcomes over time for consumer credit cards, which were subject to the regulations, to changes for small business credit cards, which the law did not cover. We estimate that regulatory limits on credit card fees reduced overall borrowing costs by an annualized 1.6% of average daily balances, with a decline of more than 5.3% for consumers with FICO scores below 660. We find no evidence of an offsetting increase in interest charges or a reduction in the volume of credit. Taken together, we estimate that the CARD Act saved consumers $11.9 billion per year. We also analyze a nudge that disclosed the interest savings from paying off balances in 36 months rather than making minimum payments. We detect a small increase in the share of accounts making the 36-month payment value but no evidence of a change in overall payments.

A Simple Framework for Estimating Consumer Benefits from Regulating Hidden Fees

Journal of Legal Studies , 43(S2), June 2014

Coauthors: Sumit Agarwal, Souphala Chomsisengphet and Neale Mahoney

View Abstract

[WP Version]

Policymakers are increasingly turning to regulation to reduce hidden or non-salient fees. Yet the overall consumer benefits from these polices are uncertain because firms may increase other prices to offset lost fee revenue. We show that the extent to which firms offset reduced hidden fee revenue is determined by a simple equation that combines two "sufficient statistics," which can be estimated or calibrated in a wide range of settings: (i) a parameter that captures the degree of market competitiveness and (ii) a parameter that captures the salience of the hidden fee. We provide corroborating evidence for this approach by drawing upon evidence on the effect of fee regulation under the 2009 CARD Act. We also illustrate the applicability of our approach by using the framework to assess a hypothetical regulation of airline baggage fees.

Resource Extraction Contracts Under Threat of Expropriation: Theory and Evidence

Review of Economics and Statistics , 95(5), December 2013

Coauthor: Arthur van Benthem

View Abstract

[WP Version]

VoxEU

Knowledge@Wharton

We use fiscal data on 2,468 oil extraction agreements in 38 countries to study tax contracts between resource-rich countries and independent oil companies. We analyze why expropriations occur and what determines the degree of oil price exposure of host countries. With asymmetric information about a country's expropriation cost even optimal contracts feature expropriations. Near-linearity in the oil price of real-world hydrocarbon contracts also helps to explain expropriations. We show theoretically and verify empirically that oil price insurance provided by tax contracts is increasing in a country's cost of expropriation, and decreasing in its production expertise. The timing of actual expropriations is consistent with our model.

Estimated Impact of the Fed's Mortgage-Backed Securities Purchase Program

International Journal of Central Banking , 8(2), June 2012

Coauthor: John B. Taylor

View Abstract

VoxEU

Media Coverage:

Bloomberg

Fox

The largest credit or liquidity program created by the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis was the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) purchase program. In this paper, we examine the quantitative impact of this program on mortgage interest rate spreads. This is more difficult than frequently perceived because of simultaneous changes in prepayment risk and default risk. Our empirical results attribute a sizeable portion of the decline in mortgage rates to such risks and a relatively small and uncertain portion to the program. For specifications where the existence or announcement of the program appears to have lowered spreads, we find no separate effect of the stock of MBS purchased by the Fed.