NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Benjamin J. Keys

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Working Papers

October 2016Minimum Payments and Debt Paydown in Consumer Credit Cards
with Jialan Wang: w22742
Using a dataset covering one quarter of the U.S. general-purpose credit card market, we document that 29% of accounts regularly make payments at or near the minimum payment. We exploit changes in issuers' minimum payment formulas to distinguish between liquidity constraints and anchoring as explanations for the prevalence of near-minimum payments. Nine to twenty percent of all accounts respond more to the formula changes than expected based on liquidity constraints alone, representing a lower bound on the role of anchoring. Disclosures implemented by the CARD Act, an example of one potential policy solution to anchoring, resulted in fewer than 1% of accounts adopting an alternative suggested payment. Based on back-of-envelope calculations, the disclosures led to $62 million in interest sav...
March 2015Regional Redistribution Through the U.S. Mortgage Market
with Erik Hurst, Amit Seru, Joseph S. Vavra: w21007
Regional shocks are an important feature of the U.S. economy. Households' ability to self-insure against these shocks depends on how they affect local interest rates. In the United States, most borrowing occurs through the mortgage market and is influenced by the presence of government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). We establish that despite large regional variation in predictable default risk, GSE mortgage rates for otherwise identical loans do not vary spatially. In contrast, the private market does set interest rates that vary with local risk. We use a spatial model of collateralized borrowing to show that the national interest rate policy substantially affects welfare by redistributing resources across regions.

Published: Erik Hurst & Benjamin J. Keys & Amit Seru & Joseph Vavra, 2016. "Regional Redistribution through the US Mortgage Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 2982-3028, October. citation courtesy of

October 2014Mortgage Rates, Household Balance Sheets, and the Real Economy
with Tomasz Piskorski, Amit Seru, Vincent Yao: w20561
This paper investigates the impact of lower mortgage rates on household balance sheets and other economic outcomes during the housing crisis. We use proprietary loan-level panel data matched to consumer credit records using borrowers' Social Security numbers, which allows for accurate measurement of the effects. Our main focus is on borrowers with agency loans, which constitute the vast majority of U.S. mortgage borrowers. Relying on variation in the timing of resets of adjustable rate mortgages, we find that a sizable decline in mortgage payments ($150 per month on average) induces a significant drop in mortgage defaults, an increase in new financing of durable consumption (auto purchases) of more than 10% in relative terms, and an overall improvement in household credit standing. New fin...
August 2014Failure to Refinance
with Devin G. Pope, Jaren C. Pope: w20401
Households that fail to refinance their mortgage when interest rates decline can lose out on substantial savings. Based on a large random sample of outstanding U.S. mortgages in December of 2010, we estimate that approximately 20% of households for whom refinancing would be optimal and who appeared unconstrained to do so, had not taken advantage of the lower rates. We estimate the present-discounted cost to the median household who fails to refinance to be approximately $11,500, making this a particularly large consumer financial mistake. To shed light on possible mechanisms and corroborate our main findings, we also provide results from a mail campaign targeted at a sample of homeowners that could benefit from refinancing.

Contact and additional information for this authorAll NBER papers and publicationsNBER Working Papers only

 
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