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The Role of Soft Information in a Dynamic Contract Setting: Evidence from the Home Equity Credit Market


  • The authors thank Regina Villasmil for excellent research assistance and Han Choi for editorial assistance. We also thank Amy Crew-Cutts, Shubhasis Dey, John Driscoll, Dennis Glennon, Robert Hauswald, Bert Higgins, Doug McManus, Donna Nickelson, Karen Pence, Mitch Petersen, Calvin Schnure, Nick Souleles, Matt Spiegel, Jon Zinman, and seminar participants at the 2007 ASSA meeting, the FDIC Center for Financial Research, Maastricht University, MEA, NCAER, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, The Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Kentucky for helpful comments and suggestions. The views expressed in this research are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and any offices, agencies, or instrumentalities of the United States Government; the Federal Reserve Board; or the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Ambrose and Liu gratefully acknowledge financial support from the FDIC's Center for Financial Research.


Credit underwriting is a dynamic process involving multiple interactions between borrower and lender. During this process, lenders have the opportunity to obtain hard and soft information from the borrower. We analyze more than 108,000 home equity loans and lines-of-credit applications to study the role of soft and hard information during underwriting. Our data set allows us to distinguish lender actions that are based strictly on hard information from decisions that involve the collection of soft information. Our analysis confirms the importance of soft information and suggests that its use can be effective in reducing overall portfolio credit losses ex post.