Author's School

Olin Business School

Author's Department



English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Radhakrishnan Gopalan

Committee Members

Taylor Begley, Kaitlin Daniels, Emily Gallagher, Janis Skrastins,


My dissertation focuses on two broad questions. First, how does access to income affect the credit decisions of households? Second, how do individuals affect the behavior of financial institutions and financial contract terms?

In Chapter 1 with Emily Gallagher, we provide the first study of how access to plasma donation as a source of discretionary income affects households financially. In the United States, households donate plasma for compensation at a higher rate than they use payday, auto-title, rent-to-own, or pawn loans. Plasma donors are young, poorly educated, and financially vulnerable with limited access to households. We use the dramatic growth in plasma centers between 2014 and 2021 to study the causal effect of access to a plasma center. When households gain access to a plasma center, they materially decrease non-bank credit (i.e., payday and installment loan) inquiries and transactions. The credit response is driven entirely by young households. Access to income could affect a household’s non-bank credit by facilitating repayment or precautionary savings. We find no evidence that households repay payday loans faster or are less likely to apply for subsequent loans. The lack of evidence that credit utilization changes at the intensive margin suggests that households rely less on non-bank credit at the extensive margin by maintaining higher savings. Moreover, foot traffic at essential and non-essential establishments increases dramatically after a plasma center opens nearby. Thus, household consumption responds strongly to discretionary income.

In Chapter 2, with Professors Kalda, Gopalan, and Manela, we explore whether bank examiners affect the banks they supervise. We find that examiner fixed effects explain significant variation in bank capital adequacy, asset quality, and earnings. We interpret this as evidence of examiner discretion, which is surprising since examiners enforce laws uniformly to ensure the safety and soundness of the financial system. Examiner effects explain nearly as much variation in firm actions as CEO fixed effects. Moreover, early career experiences affect how examiners supervise banks 25 years later. Banks significantly increase leverage, issue less equity, hold more delinquent loans, and charge-off loans slower if their examiner was trained during the savings and loan crisis.

In Chapter 3, I study whether syndicated loan bankers affect credit terms. I collect a database of loan contracts and create profiles of bankers who sign syndicated loans. I measure the relationships between and experience of bankers that form each lending syndicate. Relationships between syndicate bankers are weakly associated with stricter performance covenants. The syndicate’s general and lender-specific experience is associated with higher loan costs and stricter covenants. Offsetting this, a syndicate with experience lending to a borrower’s industry or geographic region tends to extend credit at a lower cost with weaker covenants. The associations of loan cost with syndicate relationships and experience are stronger for small and high-risk borrowers.