Three essays on consumer finance
3 essays on consumer finance
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Economics.
Jerry A. Hausman and Antoinette Schoar.
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This thesis consists of three chapters on consumer financial contracts. Particularly, this thesis focuses on the regulation and design of markets for financial contracts, and their impact on household financial health. The first chapter studies the role of consumer protection law in the function of mortgage markets in the United States. Consumer protection laws are intended to improve consumer outcomes and are becoming more common, particularly in mortgage markets after the 2008 recession. Little empirical evidence exists about the benefits of these laws to consumer outcomes, relative to the potential compliance costs. This chapter studies the effect of two common types of consumer protection laws: seller standards of conduct, enforced through ex post lawsuits by prosecutors and consumers, and mandated disclosures, which require sellers to provide consumers with information to help them make better decisions. Using a natural experiment in Ohio, which introduced the Homebuyer's Protection Act in 2007, 1 study the impact of both seller standards of conduct and mandated disclosures on the performance of loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac between 2002 and 2012. I find that imposing standards of conduct on lenders increases borrower defaults in the short term, and is correlated with a drop in foreclosures and fewer mortgage originations. Mandated disclosures decrease mortgage defaults in the short term, and the effect is correlated with smaller transactions, lower interest rates, and higher borrower credit scores. I introduce a simple model of strategic default showing that standards of conduct targeting lenders can provide incentives to lenders to be lenient towards all borrowers, increase borrower default, while mandated disclosure can induce behaviorally biased consumers to default less often. Taken together, the evidence suggests that seller standards of conduct result in lender lenience towards borrowers but operate by shifting the cost of dropping house prices from borrowers onto lenders. On the other hand, carefully designed disclosures can encourage consumers to be more responsible in repayment of loans and can decrease the overall impact of unexpected drops in house prices. The second chapter studies the impact of defined benefit pensions on retirees' consumption patterns. It is authored jointly with Professor Jerry Hausman. Retirees discontinuously decrease their consumption spending upon retirement, a phenomenon described as the retirement consumption puzzle. This chapter studies the impact of defined benefit pensions on the retirement consumption puzzle. Data from the Health and Retirement Survey shows that households with defined benefit pensions experience a significantly smaller drop in consumption spending at retirement. The difference in consumption patterns between households with defined benefit and defined contribution pensions is consistent with a drop in price of home production after retirement. Defined benefit pensions allow households to exert less effort in home production, as well as decreasing the need for precautionary savings, meaning their value is understated if home production is not accounted for. Using HRS data, we estimate the utility value of defined benefit pensions, incorporating both home production and precautionary savings. The results imply that current methods of valuing retirement income products, such as employer provided pensions and private annuities, are biased downward. The third chapter studies the purchase of annuities by retirees in Chile's privatized social security system. It is authored jointly with Gaston Illanes, of Northwestern University Department of Economics. Chile has one of the highest voluntary annuitization rates in the world, with more than 60% of retirees purchasing a private annuity. In contrast, less than 5% of US retirees purchase annuities, despite theoretical predictions that annuity value is high. Annuities in Chile are sold through a unique government-run exchange which decrease search costs and intensifies competition without imposing costs on firms. Chile also has a privatized social security system in which retirees that do not buy an annuity must take a "programmed withdrawal" of their mandated retirement savings that exposes them to more stock market risk than Social Security would. Using novel individual level administrative data and theoretical calibrations, we provide evidence that the high annuitization rate is driven by Chile's unique regulatory regime, rather than by the risk of programmed withdrawal in a privatized system. We document several features of the annuity exchange in Chile. First, annuity prices are low compared to the worldwide average. Second, annuity providers have significant market power. Third, selection exists in the market, both into purchase of annuities, and into searching for better prices. Based on these facts, we calibrate a insurance value of full annuitization compared to the privatized alternative offered by the Chilean government and compare to the value of full annuitization compared to public Social Security, such as that found in the US. The calibration suggests that privatization of social security alone cannot explain the high level of annuitization in Chile. Regulations limiting search costs can cause low prices, lower levels of adverse selection, and high brand preferences that together can explain the high annuitization rate.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Economics, 2017.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Economics.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology