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Labor market upheaval, default regulations, and consumer debt

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  • Athreya, Kartik B.

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond)

  • Sanchez, Juan M.

    (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)

  • Tam, Xuan S.

    (City University of Hong Kong)

  • Young, Eric R.

    (University of Virginia)

Abstract

In 2005, bankruptcy laws were reformed significantly, making personal bankruptcy substantially more costly to file than before. Shortly after, the US began to experience its most severe recession in seventy years. While personal bankruptcy rates rose, they rose only modestly given the severity of the rise in unemployment, perhaps as a consequence of the reform. Moreover, in the subsequent recovery, households have been widely viewed as “develeraging” (Mian and Sufi (2011), Krugman and Eggertson (2012)), an interpretation consistent with the largest reduction in the volume of unsecured debt in the past three decades. In this paper, we aim to measure the role jointly played by recent bankruptcy reforms and labor market risks during the Great Recession in accounting for the use of consumer credit and debt default. We use a setting that features high-frequency life-cycle consumption-savings decisions, defaultable debt, search frictions, and aggregate risk. Our results suggest that the 2005 bankruptcy reform likely prevented a substantial increase in bankruptcy filings, but had only limited effect on the observed path of delinquencies. Thus, the reform appears to have “worked.” We also find that fluctuations in the job separation rate observed over the Great Recession did not significantly affect the dynamics of default; all of the work is done, instead, by the large decline in the job-finding rate.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2014-2.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 01 Feb 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2014-002

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  1. Veronica Guerrieri & Guido Lorenzoni, 2011. "Credit Crises, Precautionary Savings, and the Liquidity Trap," NBER Working Papers 17583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Satyajit Chatterjee & Grey Gordon, 2011. "Dealing with consumer default: bankruptcy vs. garnishment," Working Papers 11-35, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  3. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2010. "Household Leverage and the Recession of 2007–09," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 58(1), pages 74-117, August.
  4. Xavier Mateos-Planas & David Benjamin, 2012. "Formal vs. Informal Default in Consumer Credit," 2012 Meeting Papers 144, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Paul Krugman, 2012. "Debt, Deleveraging, and the Liquidity Trap: A Fisher-Minsky-Koo Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1469-1513.
  6. Atif R. Mian & Amir Sufi, 2010. "Household Leverage and the Recession of 2007 to 2009," NBER Working Papers 15896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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.
  8. Hamish Low & Costas Meghir & Luigi Pistaferri, 2008. "Wage risk and employment risk over the life cycle," IFS Working Papers W08/06, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  9. Fatih Guvenen & Serdar Ozkan & Jae Song, 2012. "The nature of countercyclical income risk," Staff Report 476, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  10. Athreya, Kartik & Tam, Xuan S. & Young, Eric R., 2009. "Unsecured credit markets are not insurance markets," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 83-103, January.
  11. Ausubel, Lawrence M, 1991. "The Failure of Competition in the Credit Card Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 50-81, March.
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