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The Political Economy of Debt Bondage

Author

Listed:
  • Ulf von Lilienfeld-Toal
  • Dilip Mookherjee

Abstract

What are the effects of restricting bonded labor clauses in tenancy or debt contracts? While such restrictions reduce agents' ability to credibly commit ex ante to repay principals in states where they default on their financial obligations, they also generate a pecuniary externality on other principal-agent pairs by reducing the equilibrium profit earned by principals. This turns out to imply that on both political and normative grounds, restrictions on bonded labor become more attractive when borrowers become wealthier or the range of collateral instruments widens. (JEL D82, D86, J82, K12)

Suggested Citation

  • Ulf von Lilienfeld-Toal & Dilip Mookherjee, 2010. "The Political Economy of Debt Bondage," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 44-84, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:2:y:2010:i:3:p:44-84
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.2.3.44
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Dam Kaniska & Perez-Castrillo David, 2006. "The Principal-Agent Matching Market," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 2(1), pages 1-34, August.
    2. Bengt Holmstrom & Jean Tirole, 1997. "Financial Intermediation, Loanable Funds, and The Real Sector," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 663-691.
    3. Kaushik Basu, 2003. "The Economics and Law of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 141-157, Summer.
    4. Genicot, Garance & Ray, Debraj, 2006. "Bargaining power and enforcement in credit markets," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 398-412, April.
    5. Genicot, Garance, 2002. "Bonded labor and serfdom: a paradox of voluntary choice," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 101-127, February.
    6. Lester, V. Markham, 1995. "Victorian Insolvency: Bankruptcy, Imprisonment for Debt, and Company Winding-up in Nineteenth-Century England," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198205180.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Suresh Naidu & Noam Yuchtman, 2011. "Coercive Contract Enforcement: Law and the Labor Market in 19th Century Industrial Britain," NBER Working Papers 17051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Suresh Naidu & Yaw Nyarko & Shing-Yi Wang, 2016. "Monopsony Power in Migrant Labor Markets: Evidence from the United Arab Emirates," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(6), pages 1735-1792.
    3. Madhav S, Aney & Maitreesh Ghatak & Massimo Morelli, 2011. "Can Market Failure Cause Political Failure?," STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series 029, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    4. Clemens, Michael A., 2017. "Testing for Repugnance in Economic Transactions: Evidence from Guest Work in the Gulf," IZA Discussion Papers 11061, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Athreya, Kartik & Sánchez, Juan M. & Tam, Xuan S. & Young, Eric R., 2012. "Bankruptcy and delinquency in a model of unsecured debt," Working Papers 2012-042, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, revised 22 Dec 2016.
    6. Besley, Timothy J. & Ghatak, Maitreesh, 2009. "The de Soto Effect," CEPR Discussion Papers 7259, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Bond, Philip & Newman, Andrew F., 2009. "Prohibitions on punishments in private contracts," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 526-540, October.
    8. Suresh Naidu & Yaw Nyarko & Shing-Yi Wang, 2014. "Worker Mobility in a Global Labor Market: Evidence from the United Arab Emirates," NBER Working Papers 20388, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Kartik Athreya, 2012. "A Model of Credit Card Delinquency," 2012 Meeting Papers 981, Society for Economic Dynamics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • J82 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Labor Force Composition
    • K12 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Contract Law

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