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The (Un-) importance of Chapter 7 wealth exemption levels

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  • Jochen, Mankart

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Abstract

This paper examines the effects of the Chapter 7 wealth exemption level on welfare, bankruptcy filings, debt, and on asset holdings. I build a heterogeneous agent life cycle model which features uninsurable income and expense shocks. Moreover, households can borrow and save simultaneously. When a borrower defaults on her debt by filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, she can keep her assets up to the wealth exemption level. Wealth exemption levels are important for two reasons. First, they explain the extensive and intensive margin of the credit card debt puzzle identified by Gross and Souleles (2002b). Around thirty percent of borrowers, both in the model and in the data, who borrow at high interest rates simultaneously save at low interest rates. However, these borrowers borrow and save only relatively small amounts, a few thousand U.S. Dollars. Second, ignoring the exemption level biases results because it overstates the costs of defaulting. The welfare gains from Chapter 7 compared to the European system, where debt is not discharged, are twice as high when exemption levels are positive compared to when they are ignored. At the same time, wealth exemption levels are unimportant in the sense that they have an impact only at low exemption levels. The effects of increases in the exemption level fade out very quickly. There is no strong positive relationship between exemption levels, which vary across U.S. states, and default rates in the model. This is in contrast to the previous literature, but consistent with the data. The reason is that those borrowers who might default do not own much wealth. Therefore, only very few households are affected by increases in the exemption level.

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File URL: http://www1.vwa.unisg.ch/RePEc/usg/econwp/EWP-1211.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science in its series Economics Working Paper Series with number 1211.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: May 2012
Date of revision: Sep 2013
Handle: RePEc:usg:econwp:2012:11

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Keywords: Personal bankruptcy law; wealth exemption level; asset portfolios; credit card debt puzzle;

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References

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  1. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae & Makoto Nakajima & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2007. "A quantitative theory of unsecured consumer credit with risk of default," Working Papers 07-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  2. Irina A. Telyukova, 2013. "Household Need for Liquidity and the Credit Card Debt Puzzle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(3), pages 1148-1177.
  3. Irina A. Telyukova & Randall Wright, 2006. "A Model of Money and Credit, with Application to the Credit Card Debt Puzzle," 2006 Meeting Papers 45, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 98-28, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  5. Marina Pavan, 2003. "Consumer Durables and Risky Borrowing: the Effects of Bankruptcy Protection," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 573, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 01 May 2005.
  6. Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michele Tertilt, 2003. "Consumer bankruptcy: a fresh start," Working Papers 617, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  7. Kartik Athreya, 2008. "A Quantitative Theory of Information and Unsecured Credit," 2008 Meeting Papers 68, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Li, Wenli & Sarte, Pierre-Daniel, 2006. "U.S. consumer bankruptcy choice: The importance of general equilibrium effects," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 613-631, April.
  9. Hintermaier, Thomas & Koeniger, Winfried, 2011. "Debt Portfolios," CEPR Discussion Papers 8359, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. 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.
  11. Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Dirk Krueger, 2002. "Consumption over the Life Cycle: Facts from Consumer Expenditure Survey Data," NBER Working Papers 9382, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. P. Dubey & J. Geanakoplos & M . Shubik, 2001. "Default and Punishment in General Equilibrium," Department of Economics Working Papers 01-07, Stony Brook University, Department of Economics.
  13. Edelberg, Wendy, 2006. "Risk-based pricing of interest rates for consumer loans," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 2283-2298, November.
  14. Kartik Athreya, 2004. "Fresh start or head start? Uniform bankruptcy exemptions and welfare," Working Paper 03-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  15. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Christopher I. & Yaron, Amir, 2004. "Consumption and risk sharing over the life cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 609-633, April.
  16. Paula Lopes, 2008. "Credit Card Debt and Default over the Life Cycle," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 40(4), pages 769-790, 06.
  17. 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.
  18. Athreya, Kartik B., 2008. "Default, insurance, and debt over the life-cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 752-774, May.
  19. Carol C. Bertaut & Michael Haliassos & Michael Reiter, 2009. "Credit Card Debt Puzzles and Debt Revolvers for Self Control," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 13(4), pages 657-692.
  20. Lars Lefgren & Frank McIntyre, 2009. "Explaining the Puzzle of Cross-State Differences in Bankruptcy Rates," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(2), pages 367-393, 05.
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As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Wealth exemptions do not matter in bankruptcy
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-05-15 14:32:00

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