Essays in Personal Transportation Demand and Consumer Finance

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This dissertation is composed of three essays covering two areas of interest. The first topic is personal transportation demand with a focus on price and fuel efficiency elasticities of mileage demand, challenging assumptions common in the rebound effect literature. The second topic is consumer finance with a focus on small loans.

The first chapter creates separate variables for fuel prices during periods of increasing and decreasing prices as well as an observed fuel economy measure to empirically test the equivalence of these elasticities. Using a panel from Germany from 1997 to 2009 I find a fuel economy elasticity of mileage of 53.3%, which is significantly different from the gas price elasticity of mileage during periods of decreasing gas prices, 4.8%. I reject the null hypothesis or price symmetry, with the elasticity of mileage during period of increasing gas prices ranging from 26.2% and 28.9%.

The second chapter explores the potential for the rebound effect to vary with income. Panel data from U.S. households from 1997 to 2003 is used to estimate the rebound effect in a median regression. The estimated rebound effect independent of income ranges from 17.8% to 23.6%. An interaction of income and fuel economy is negative and significant, indicating that the rebound effect may be much higher for low income individuals and decreases with income; the rebound effect for low income households ranged from 80.3% to 105.0%, indicating that such households may increase gasoline consumption given an improvement in fuel economy.

The final chapter documents the costs of credit instruments found in major mail order catalogs throughout the 20th century. This study constructs a new dataset and finds that the cost of credit increased and became stickier as mail order retailers switched from an installment-style closed-end loan to a revolving-style credit card. This study argues that revolving credit's ability to decrease salience of credit costs in the price of goods is the best explanation for rate stickiness in the mail order industry as well as for the preference of revolving credit among retailers.