Det pågår en diskussion om kortfristiga lån med höga räntor, inte sällan i Sverige förmedlade via sms. Ofta fokuseras på de negativa följderna av sådana lån: att de kan orsaka svårhanterlig skuldsättning för mindre ekonomiskt rationella individer. Det må så vara, men det är viktigt att inte glömma bort denna typ av kreditgivnings förmåga att också bistå människor som av någon anledning har likviditetsproblem. Vad vi skulle vilja veta är om nettoeffekten för olika typer av utfall är positiv eller negativ. Studien ”Expanding Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts”, publicerad i The Review of Financial Studies (preliminär gratisversion här), undersöker den saken:
We address the identification problem by engineering exogenous variation in the approval of consumer loans. A lender randomly encouraged loan officers to reconsider marginal applications for market-rate, four-month term loans that they normally would have rejected. Loan officers reconsidered in real-time, and unbeknownst to the applicants. Half of the reconsidered applicants were approved. We then tracked the behavior and outcomes of the treatment (reconsidered) and control (still rejected) groups over the next 6 to 27 months using administrative data and detailed household surveys.
Our results corroborate the presence of binding liquidity constraints and suggest that expanding credit supply improves welfare. There are three key sets of findings. First, control applicants who were randomly denied by our cooperating lender did not simply obtain credit elsewhere; conversely, treatment applicants who were randomly assigned a second look increased their total borrowing, and changed their lender type composition, in the 6-12 months following the experiment. Second, we find that treated applicants benefited from the expanded access. We use household surveys to measure a range of tangible and subjective outcomes 6-12 months following the experiment, and find significant and positive effects on job retention, income, food consumption quality and quantity, and household decision-making control and mental outlook. We find negative effects on other aspects of mental health (principally stress). But on net the impacts are significant and positive. We do not find any evidence that the positive 6 to 12 month impacts are transitory and driven by borrowers who have yet to realize the full costs of borrowing. Over 15 to 27 month horizons we find that the treatment increased the likelihood of having an external credit score, and had no effect on the score itself. Third, our evidence suggests that the marginal loans were profitable. … Most importantly, we do not find any evidence that the net effects of expanded access to expensive consumer credit are negative. The default policy prescription in South Africa and much of the rest of the world (including parts of the U.S.) is to restrict access based on the presumption that vulnerable consumers overborrow in these markets. Our evidence casts doubt on this presumption: consumers who borrowed at 200% in our experiment benefited from doing so, at least relative to their outside options.
Givetvis kan man fundera på hur regelverket ytterligare kan förbättras, för att öka sannolikheten att kortfristiga lån med hög ränta primärt nyttjas av personer vars ekonomi på det hela taget gynnas. Men att förbjuda lån av detta slag (t.ex. sms-lån) torde, mot bakgrund av ovan presenterade studie, riskera att verka i välfärdssänkande riktning.