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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Risk Rationing and Wealth Effects in Credit Markets


By shrinking the available menu of loan contracts, asymmetric information can result in two types of nonprice rationing in credit markets. The first is conventional quantity rationing. The second is 'risk rationing.' Risk rationed agents are able to borrow, but only under relatively high collateral contracts that offer them lower expected well-being than a safe, reservation rental activity. Like quantity rationed agents, credit markets do not perform well for the risk rationed. While the incidence of conventional quantity rationing is straightforward (low wealth agents who cannot meet minimum endogenous collateral requirements are quantity rationed), the incidence of risk rationing is less straightforward. Increases in financial wealth, holding productive wealth constant, counter intuitively result in the poor becoming entrepreneurs and the wealthy becoming workers. While this counterintuitive puzzle has been found in the literature on wealth effects in principal-agent models, we show that a more intuitive pattern of risk rationing results if we consider increases in productive wealth. Empirical evidence drawn from four country studies corroborates the implications of the analysis, showing that agents with low levels of productive wealth are risk rationed, and that their input and output levels mimic those of low productivity quantity rationed firms.

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