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Keywords:

  • Contract pricing;
  • subprime lending;
  • credit markets;
  • asymmetric information

We analyze subprime consumer lending and the role played by down payment requirements in screening high-risk borrowers and limiting defaults. To do this, we develop an empirical model of the demand for financed purchases that incorporates both adverse selection and repayment incentives. We estimate the model using detailed transaction-level data on subprime auto loans. We show how different elements of loan contracts affect the quality of the borrower pool and subsequent loan performance. We also evaluate the returns to credit scoring that allows sellers to customize financing terms to individual applicants. Our approach shows how standard econometric tools for analyzing demand and supply under imperfect competition extend to settings in which firms care about the identity of their customers and their postpurchase behavior.