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Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies

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  • Igor Livshits
  • James MacGee
  • Michèle Tertilt

Abstract

Personal bankruptcies in the United States have increased dramatically, rising from 1.4 per thousand working age adults in 1970 to 8.5 in 2002. We use a heterogeneous agent life-cycle model with competitive lenders to evaluate several commonly offered explanations. We find that increased uncertainty (income shocks, expense uncertainty) cannot account quantitatively for the rise in bankruptcies. Instead, the rise in filings appears mainly to reflect changes in the credit market environment: a decrease in the transaction cost of lending and in the cost of bankruptcy. We also argue that the abolition of usury laws and other legal changes were unimportant. (JEL D14, E44, G21, G28)

Suggested Citation

  • Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michèle Tertilt, 2010. "Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 165-193, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmac:v:2:y:2010:i:2:p:165-93
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/mac.2.2.165
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation

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