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Title: Debt Relief or Debt Restructuring? Evidence from an Experiment with Distressed Credit Card Borrowers
Authors: Dobbie, Will
Song, Jae
Issue Date: Aug-2016
Series/Report no.: 599
Abstract: This paper reports results from a randomized field experiment that offered distressed credit card borrowers more than $50 million in debt forgiveness and over 27,500 additional months to repay their debts. The experimental variation effectively randomized debt write-downs and minimum payments for borrowers at eleven large credit card issuers. Merging information from the experiment to administrative tax and bankruptcy records, we find that the debt write-downs increased debt repayment and decreased bankruptcy ling. The debt write-downs also increased formal sector employment for the most financially distressed borrowers. In contrast, we find little impact of the lower minimum payments on debt repayment, bankruptcy, or employment. We show that this null result can be explained by the positive short-run effect of increased liquidity being o set by the unintended, negative effect of exposing borrowers to more default risk. We conclude that debt relief is more effective than debt restructuring for distressed credit card borrowers, even when these borrowers are liquidity constrained.
Appears in Collections:IRS Working Papers

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