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Jel Classification:D14 

Working Paper
Medical Expenses and Saving in Retirement: The Case of U.S. and Sweden
Many U.S. households have significant wealth late in life, contrary to the predictions of a simple life-cycle model. In this paper, we document stark differences between U.S. and Sweden regarding out-of-pocket medical and long-term-care expenses late in life, and use them to investigate their role in discouraging the elderly from dissaving. Using a consumption-saving model in retirement with significant uninsurable expense risk, we find that medical expense risk accounts for a quarter of the U.S.-Sweden difference in retirees' dissaving patterns. Furthermore, medical expense risk affects primarily financial assets, while its impact on housing is limited.
AUTHORS: Nakajima, Makoto; Telyukova, Irina A.
DATE: 2018-04-10

Working Paper
Location as an Asset
The location of individuals determines their job opportunities, living amenities, and housing costs. We argue that it is useful to conceptualize the location choice of individuals as a decision to invest in a ?location asset?. This asset has a cost equal to the location?s rent, and a payoff through better job opportunities and, potentially, more human capital for the individual and her children. As with any asset, savers in the location asset transfer resources into the future by going to expensive locations with good future opportunities. In contrast, borrowers transfer resources to the present by going to cheap locations that offer few other advantages. As in a standard portfolio problem, holdings of this asset depend on the comparison of its rate of return with that of other assets. Differently from other assets, the location asset is not subject to borrowing constraints, so it is used by individuals with little or no wealth that want to borrow. We provide an analytical model to make this idea precise and to derive a number of related implications, including an agent?s mobility choices after experiencing negative income shocks. The model can rationalize why low wealth individuals locate in low income regions with low opportunities even in the absence of mobility costs. We document the investment dimension of location, and confirm the core predictions of our theory with French individual panel data from tax returns.
AUTHORS: Bilal, Adrien; Rossi-Hansberg, Esteban
DATE: 2018-08-07

Journal Article
Tracking and stress-testing U.S. household leverage
Housing equity is an important component of borrowers? wealth and a critical determinant of their vulnerability to shocks. In this article, the authors use a unique, newly created data set to analyze the evolution of household leverage?defined here as the ratio of housing debt to housing values?over time and across locations in the United States, at the micro level. They find that leverage was at a very low point just prior to the large declines in house prices that began in 2006, and rose very quickly through 2012, in spite of reductions in housing debt. As of early 2017, leverage statistics were falling back toward their pre-crisis levels, reflecting a more than 30 percent increase in home prices nationally since 2012. Using borrower-level leverage measures and another unique feature of the data?updated borrower credit scores?the authors conduct ?stress tests? in which they project leverage and defaults under various adverse house price scenarios. They find that while the riskiness of the household sector has declined significantly since 2012, when home prices were at their low, the sector remains vulnerable to very severe declines in house prices.
AUTHORS: Fuster, Andreas; Guttman-Kenney, Benedict; Haughwout, Andrew F.
DATE: 2018

Journal Article
Do we know what we owe? Consumer debt as reported by borrowers and lenders
Household surveys are the source of some of the most widely studied data on consumer balance sheets, with the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) generally cited as the leading source of wealth data for the United States. At the same time, recent research questions survey respondents? propensity and ability to report debt characteristics accurately. This study compares household debt as reported by borrowers to the SCF with household debt as reported by lenders to Equifax using the new FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel (CCP). The borrower and lender debt distributions are compared by year, age of household head, household size, and region of the country, in total and across five standard debt categories. The authors? central finding is that the SCF and CCP debt patterns are strikingly similar. There are, however, two noteworthy exceptions: the aggregate credit card debt implied by SCF borrowers? reports is estimated to be 37 to 40 percent lower than that implied by CCP lenders? reports, and the aggregate student debt implied by the SCF is roughly 25 percent lower than that implied by the CCP. In contrast to the credit card debt mismatch, bankruptcy history is reported comparably in the borrower and lender sources, indicating that not all stigmatized consumer behaviors are underreported.
AUTHORS: Haughwout, Andrew F.; Brown, Meta; Lee, Donghoon; Van der Klaauw, Wilbert
DATE: 2015

Journal Article
Understanding the Evolution of Student Loan Balances and Repayment Behavior: Do Institution Type and Degree Matter?
Student loan balances and delinquency rates have soared to unprecedented levels in recent years, forming what many commentators have termed a “student loan bubble” and creating a major public policy issue. Given the importance of student loans for human capital formation and economic growth, understanding student loans and repayment behavior is essential from a policy perspective. Yet research in this area has been limited. The authors seek to fill the gap by examining student loan performance over time by institution type and degree program. Using detailed data collected as part of RAND’s American Life Panel survey, they find that, relative to the preceding two decades, the 2000-10 period was characterized by 1) large increases in student loan balances at college exit and 2) deterioration in loan performance among students seeking associate’s degrees, undergraduate certificates, master’s degrees, and professional degrees at private institutions, compared with trends seen among students seeking corresponding degrees at public institutions. The declines in repayment behavior were by far most prominent for associate’s degrees and undergraduate certificates, and were statistically and economically different from the changes observed with other degrees. While deterioration was also seen with public associate’s degree programs, the deterioration was more prominent in such programs in private institutions. The results suggest that the worsening of loan performance at private institutions in the past decade is to a significant extent attributable to student loans extended for study at for-profit institutions.
AUTHORS: Brown, Meta; Zafar, Basit; Van der Klaauw, Wilbert; Chakrabarti, Rajashri
DATE: 2019-12

Discussion Paper
Meet People Where They Are: Building Formal Credit Using Informal Financial Traditions
The Consumer Finance Institute hosted a workshop in February 2019 featuring José Quiñonez, chief executive officer, and Elena Fairley, programs director, of Mission Asset Fund (MAF) to discuss MAF’s approach to helping its clients improve access to mainstream financial markets. MAF’s signature program, Lending Circles, adapts a traditional community-based financial tool known as a rotating savings and credit association (ROSCA) to help establish or expand credit reports for participants who may not be able to do so through traditional means. Lending Circles have served more than 10,000 clients since 2007 and have expanded well beyond MAF’s core constituency in the Mission District of San Francisco. Quiñonez and Fairley discussed MAF’s approach to working with the communities it serves and shared the key successes and challenges that MAF has encountered. This paper provides an overview of the information shared in the workshop and additional research connecting Lending Circles to previous work on ROSCAs.
AUTHORS: Akana, Tom
DATE: 2020-02-20

Health and Mortality Delta: Assessing the Welfare Cost of Household Insurance Choice
We develop a pair of risk measures, health and mortality delta, for the universe of life and health insurance products. A life-cycle model of insurance choice simplifies to replicating the optimal health and mortality delta through a portfolio of insurance products. We estimate the model to explain the observed variation in health and mortality delta implied by the ownership of life insurance, annuities including private pensions, and long-term care insurance in the Health and Retirement Study. For the median household aged 51 to 57, the lifetime welfare cost of market incompleteness and suboptimal choice is 3.2% of total wealth.
AUTHORS: Koijen, Ralph S. J.; Van Nieuwerburgh, Stijn; Yogo, Motohiro
DATE: 2014-06-11

Discussion Paper
What Happened to the Revolving Credit Card Balances of 2009?
We track the disposition of revolving credit card balances that existed as of March 2009 ? the peak of outstanding balances in our data set ? over a four-year period. We find that 75 percent of those balances had been paid off or charged off by February 2013. Charge-offs played a much smaller role in balance reduction than did paydown: 27.8 percent of balances were charged off, while 72.2 percent were paid down. Charge-offs accounted for a much larger share of balance reduction in the riskiest quintile and almost none of the reduction in the least risky quintile. After stratifying by risk score as of March 2009, balance, and utilization, we find that highly utilized accounts were no more likely to reduce their debt balances than low utilized accounts. We also find that low-utilization accounts were more likely to reduce their balances by paydown rather than default. By comparing accounts affected by unfavorable events, such as closures, freezes, and rate increases, with those accounts that did not experience such an event, we find that, while the aggregate results appear to be similar, there is a high degree of variation within risk quartiles, both with respect to debt reduction rates and to balance reduction shares attributed to paydown and to charge-off.
AUTHORS: Santucci, Lawrence
DATE: 2016-05-18

Discussion Paper
Consumer use of fraud alerts and credit freezes: an empirical analysis
Fraud alerts ? initial fraud alerts, extended fraud alerts, and credit freezes ? help protect consumers from the consequences of identity theft. At the same time, they may impose costs on lenders, credit bureaus, and, in some instances, consumers. We analyze a unique data set of anonymized credit bureau files to understand how consumers use these alerts. We document the frequency and persistence of fraud alerts and credit freezes. Using the experience of the data breach at the South Carolina Department of Revenue, we show that consumers who file initial fraud alerts or credit freezes likely do so out of precaution. Consumers who file extended alerts are more likely to be actual victims of identity theft. We find that consumers are heterogeneous in their choice of alerts and that their choices are correlated with important characteristics found in their credit bureau files. These facts are useful for interpreting consumer responses to data breaches and for policymakers.
AUTHORS: Vogan, Michael; Ritter, Dubravka; Cheney, Julia S.; Hunt, Robert M.; Mikhed, Vyacheslav
DATE: 2014-09-23

Discussion Paper
Future Potential versus Past Performance: MPOWER Financing’s Innovation in Student Loan Underwriting
The Payment Cards Center hosted a February 2016 workshop featuring MPOWER Financing, a start-up public benefit corporation created to be a source of student loans for high-potential scholars who either do not qualify for federal aid or who face a gap between federal aid maximums and the full cost of their educations. MPOWER has taken a unique approach to loan underwriting that is based on future potential rather than past credit experience and has developed a scoring model that helps predict loan repayment for young adults who have yet to establish a credit history. This paper summarizes highlights from the MPOWER workshop.
AUTHORS: Herbst-Murphy, Susan
DATE: 2016-09-20


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