Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information

Posted: 17 Nov 2009

See all articles by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Joseph E. Stiglitz

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Andrew Weiss

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 1981


According to basic economics, if demand exceeds supply, prices will rise, thus decreasing demand or increasing supply until demand and supply are in equilibrium; thus if prices do their job, rationing will not exist. However, credit rationing does exist. This paper demonstrates that even in equilibrium, credit rationing will exist in a loan market. Credit rationing is defined as occurring either (a) among loan applicants who appear identical, and some do and do not receive loans, even though the rejected applicants would pay higher interest rates; or (b) there are groups who, with a given credit supply, cannot obtain loans at any rate, even though with larger credit supply they would. A model is developed to provide the first theoretical justification for true credit rationing. The amount of the loan and the amount of collateral demanded affect the behavior and distribution of borrowers. Consequently, faced with increased credit demand, it may not be profitable to raise interest rates or collateral; instead banks deny loans to borrowers who are observationally indistinguishable from those receiving loans. It is not argued that credit rationing always occurs, but that it occurs under plausible assumptions about lender and borrower behavior. In the model, interest rates serve as screening devices for evaluating risk. Interest rates change the behavior (serve as incentive mechanism) for the borrower, increasing the relative attractiveness of riskier projects; banks ration credit, rather than increase rates when there is excess demand. Banks are shown not to increase collateral as a means of allocating credit; although collateral may have incentivizing effects, it may have adverse selection effects. Equity, nonlinear payment schedules, and contingency contracts may be introduced and yet there still may be rationing. The law of supply and demand is thus a result generated by specific assumptions and is model specific; credit rationing does exist. (TNM)

Keywords: Credit rationing, Lending policies, Credit discrimination, Bank loans, Supply & demand, Interest (finance)

Suggested Citation

Stiglitz, Joseph E. and Weiss, Andrew, Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information (1981). American Economic Review, Vol. 71, Issue 3, p. 393-410 1981. Available at SSRN:

Joseph E. Stiglitz (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Andrew Weiss

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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