I am a sixth year PhD student in economics at UC Berkeley. My fields are industrial organization, public economics and household finance. Before starting at my PhD, I was a research assistant in the Financial Structure section at the Federal Reserve Board for two years.

Email: helen_banga@berkeley.edu

I am on the job market in the 2021-2022 academic year and available for interviews.

Works in Progress

“Price Regulation and Market Power: Evidence from Manufactured Home Loans” (Job Market Paper)

Regulation of loan prices is a controversial policy tool. Proponents argue that regulation protects borrowers from high prices, while detractors argue that restricting prices prevents borrowers from obtaining credit. Firm profits play a role in the effects of price regulation. If lenders are profitable enough to offer lower prices while continuing lending activity, borrowers can benefit from price regulation. In this paper, I study a 2014 price regulation in the manufactured home loan market. Manufactured homes, known colloquially as “mobile homes” or “trailers”, are a source of affordable housing for approximately 17 million people in the United States. I find that loan prices fell in response to the 2014 regulation while a similar number of loans with prices near the cap were made, suggesting that borrowers benefited. This response is driven by the largest firm in the market, which made about 90% of affected loans. I show that this firm charges higher prices than other firms to observably similar borrowers, which fits with the finding that they were able to continue lending activity after the restriction was implemented. I then consider how stricter restrictions would affect borrowers and lenders. In order to conduct this counterfactual analysis, I develop and estimate a model of supply and demand for manufactured home loans, estimate borrowers' price sensitivity, and recover markups. Under progressively stricter rate restrictions, I find that borrowers initially gain surplus from lower prices but are eventually worse off due to the fall in credit supply.

“Mortgage Servicing and Household Financial Health” (with Manisha Padi and Chen Meng)

Debt servicers directly interact with household borrowers, make key decisions about creditor leniency, and have been targeted to help alleviate financial distress by regulators during the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Using the 2013 introduction of mortgage servicing regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), we study whether requiring servicers to warn delinquent consumers and to process loss mitigation applications prior to foreclosure improves consumer outcomes. Data from loan level mortgage performance data shows that servicing regulations significantly improve loan performance, lowering the probability that a loan ends up in loss mitigation or in foreclosure. Moreover, using linked credit data, we show that servicer-driven, rather than household-driven, shifts in loan performance generate changes in households’ financial health. Overall, our results imply that servicer regulation has the potential to alleviate debt burdens in both crisis and non-crisis environments.

Published Work (Pre-PhD)

Pinar Keskin, Gauri Kartini Shastry and Helen Willis (2017). "Water Quality Awareness and Breastfeeding: Evidence of Health Behavior Change in Bangladesh," The Review of Economics and Statistics, 99(2), pages 265-280. https://doi.org/10.1162/REST_a_00626


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