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Bankruptcy Reform and Credit Cards

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  • Michelle J. White
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    Abstract

    From 1980 to 2004, the number of personal bankruptcy filings in the United States increased more than five-fold, from 288,000 to 1.5 million per year. By 2004, more Americans were filing for bankruptcy each year than were graduating from college, getting divorced, or being diagnosed with cancer. In 2005, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) became law. It made bankruptcy law much less debtor-friendly. Personal bankruptcy filings fell to 600,000 in 2006. This paper explores why personal bankruptcy rates rose, and will argue that the main reason is the growth of "revolving debt" -- mainly credit card debt. It explains how the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) of 2005 altered the conditions of bankruptcy. Finally, this essay considers the balances that need to be struck in a bankruptcy system and how the U.S. bankruptcy system strikes these balances in comparison with other countries. I argue that a less debtor-friendly bankruptcy policy should be accompanied by changes in bank regulation and truth-in-lending rules, so that lenders have a greater chance of facing losses when they supply too much credit or charge excessively high interest rates and fees.

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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.21.4.175
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

    Volume (Year): 21 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
    Pages: 175-200

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:4:p:175-200

    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.4.175
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    References

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    1. Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michele Tertilt, 2006. "Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies," Discussion Papers 06-001, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    2. Gropp, Reint & Scholz, John Karl & White, Michelle J, 1997. "Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Supply and Demand," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 217-51, February.
    3. Posner, Eric A, 1995. "Contract Law in the Welfare State: A Defense of the Unconscionablility Doctrine, Usury Laws, and Related Limitations on the Freedom to Contract," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 283-319, June.
    4. Lin, Emily Y. & White, Michelle J., 2001. "Bankruptcy and the Market for Mortgage and Home Improvement Loans," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 138-162, July.
    5. Ian Domowitz & Robert L. Sartain, 1999. "Determinants of the Consumer Bankruptcy Decision," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(1), pages 403-420, 02.
    6. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," NBER Working Papers 8409, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Fan, Wei & White, Michelle J, 2003. "Personal Bankruptcy and the Level of Entrepreneurial Activity," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 543-67, October.
    8. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
    9. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2000. "A Debt Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 7879, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Wang, Hung-Jen & White, Michelle J, 2000. "An Optimal Personal Bankruptcy Procedure and Proposed Reforms," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 255-86, January.
    11. Berkowitz, Jeremy & Hynes, Richard, 1999. "Bankruptcy Exemptions and the Market for Mortgage Loans," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 809-30, October.
    12. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data," NBER Working Papers 8314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Scott Fay & Erik Hurst & Michelle J. White, 2002. "The Household Bankruptcy Decision," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(3), pages 706-718, June.
    14. John M. Barron & Michael E. Staten & Stephanie M. Wilshusen, 2002. "The Impact Of Casino Gambling On Personal Bankruptcy Filing Rates," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(4), pages 440-455, October.
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