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Fresh start or head start? The effect of filing for personal bankruptcy on the labor supply

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  • Song Han
  • Wenli Li
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Abstract

The key feature of the modern U.S. personal bankruptcy law is to provide debtors a financial fresh start through debt discharge. The primary justification for the discharge policy is to preserve human capital by maintaining incentives for work. In this paper, we test this fresh start argument by providing the first estimate of the effect of personal bankruptcy filing on the labor supply using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Our econometric approach controls for the endogenous self-selection of bankruptcy filing and allows for dependence over time for the same household. We find that filing for bankruptcy does not have a positive impact on annual hours worked by bankrupt households, a result mainly due to the wealth effects of debt discharge. The finding is robust to a number of alternative model specifications and sample selections. Therefore, our analysis does not find supporting evidence for the human capital argument for bankruptcy discharge.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2004-28.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2004-28

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Keywords: Bankruptcy ; Labor supply;

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  1. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae & Makoto Nakajima & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2007. "A Quantitative Theory of Unsecured Consumer Credit with Risk of Default," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(6), pages 1525-1589, November.
  2. Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michele Tertilt, 2005. "Consumer Bankruptcy: A Fresh Start," Discussion Papers 04-011, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  3. Loretta Mester, 2002. "Is the personal bankruptcy system bankrupt?," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Q1, pages 31-44.
  4. Robert Moffitt, 2002. "Welfare Programs and Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 9168, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. Reint Gropp & John Karl Scholz & Michelle White, 1996. "Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Supply and Demand," NBER Working Papers 5653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Buckley, F H & Brinig, Margaret F, 1998. "The Bankruptcy Puzzle," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 187-207, January.
  8. White, M.J., 1998. "Why Don't More Households File for Bankruptcy?," Papers 98-03, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  9. Krueger, Alan B. & Meyer, Bruce D., 2002. "Labor supply effects of social insurance," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 33, pages 2327-2392 Elsevier.
  10. 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.
  11. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1995. "Is High School Employment Consumption or Investment?," NBER Working Papers 5030, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Jappelli, Tullio & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen & Souleles, Nicholas, 1995. "Testing for Liquidity Constraints in Euler Equations with Complementary Data Sources," CEPR Discussion Papers 1138, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  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. Hausman, J. A. & Abrevaya, Jason & Scott-Morton, F. M., 1998. "Misclassification of the dependent variable in a discrete-response setting," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 239-269, September.
  15. repec:fth:pennfi:69 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. White, Michelle J, 1998. "Why Don't More Households File for Bankruptcy?," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 205-31, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Song Han & Geng Li, 2011. "Household Borrowing after Personal Bankruptcy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 43, pages 491-517, 03.
  2. Eva-Maria Steiger, 2006. "Ex-Ante vs. Ex-Post Efficiency in Personal Bankruptcy Proceedings," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2006-17, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  3. Jochen Bigus & Eva-Maria Steiger, 2006. "When it pays to be honest: How a variable period of good conduct can improve incentives in personal bankruptcy proceedings," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 233-253, November.

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