CDHA CAAR

April 22, 2013

CAAR – National Bureau of Economic Research Working Papers – April 22, 2013

Filed under: Working Papers — Tags: , — admin @ 4:42 pm

A. “Financial Literacy and High-Cost Borrowing in the United States,” by Annamaria Lusardi and Carlo de Bassa Scheresberg (w18969, .pdf format, 41p.).

Abstract:

In this paper, we examine high-cost methods of borrowing in the United States, such as payday loans, pawn shops, auto title loans, refund anticipation loans, and rent-to-own shops, and offer a portrait of borrowers who use these methods. Considering a representative sample of more than 26,000 respondents, we find that about one in four Americans has used one of these methods in the past five years. Moreover, many young adults engage in high-cost borrowing: 34 percent of young respondents (aged 18–34) and 43 percent of young respondents with a high school degree have used one of these methods. Using well-tested questions to measure financial literacy, we document that most high-cost borrowers display very low levels of financial literacy, i.e., they lack numeracy and do not possess knowledge of basic financial concepts. Most importantly, we find that those who are more financially literate are much less likely to have engaged in high-cost borrowing. Our empirical work shows that it is not only the shocks inflicted by the financial crisis or the structure of the financial system but that the level of financial literacy also plays a role in explaining why so many individuals have made use of high-cost borrowing methods.

papers.nber.org/papers/w18969

B. “Shrouded Costs of Government: The Political Economy of State and Local Public Pensions,” by Edward L. Glaeser and Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto (w18976, April 2013, .pdf format, 67p.).

Abstract:

Why are public-sector workers so heavily compensated with pensions and other non-pecuniary benefits? In this paper, we present a political economy model of shrouded compensation in which politicians compete for taxpayers’ and public employees’ votes by promising compensation packages, but some voters cannot evaluate every aspect of compensation. If pension packages are “shrouded,” meaning that public-sector workers better understand their value than ordinary taxpayers, then compensation will be inefficiently back-loaded. In equilibrium, the welfare of public-sector workers could be improved, holding total public sector costs constant, if they received higher wages and lower pensions. Central control over dispersed municipal pensions has two offsetting effects on pension generosity: more state-level media attention helps taxpayers better understand pension costs, which reduces pension generosity; but a larger share of public sector workers will live within the jurisdiction, which increases pension generosity. We discuss pension arrangements in two decentralized states (California and Pennsylvania) and two centralized states (Massachusetts and Ohio) and find that in these cases, centralization appears to have modestly reduced pension arrangements; but, as the model suggests, this finding is unlikely to be universal.

www.nber.org/papers/w18976

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