One day last spring, I saw in a Google alert that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had announced that it was for the first time making public a consumer complaint database. At the time, I was teaching a course in Empirical Law & Economics at Yale and decided to call an audible. I came into class that day and projected the raw data (which you can see for yourself by clicking here) and asked the class how we might make use of the information.
With incredible dispatch, Jeff Lingwall and Sonia Steinway merged the complaint data with other datasets and together we started to put together an initial draft analyzing the complaint information. When the CFPB made the database public, they actively encouraged “the public, including consumers, analysts, developers, data scientists, civic hackers, and companies that serve consumers, to analyze, augment, and build on the public database to develop ways for consumers to access the complaint data or mash it up with other public data sets.” This paper is our attempt to respond to the Bureau’s call to action.