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Fresh start or head start? Uniform bankruptcy exemptions and welfare

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  • Athreya, Kartik

Abstract

The 1990's witnessed a historically unprecedented number of personal bankruptcy filings. In response, congressional debate over bankruptcy law has recently led to several proposals aimed at making it more difficult to exempt wealth in bankruptcy. In this paper, I evaluate uniform exemption policy primarily within the context of the recent congressional proposal H.R. 975. I develop an incomplete markets model where secured and unsecured assets coexist and are treated differentially in a bankruptcy proceeding. I find that exemptions are associated positively with filing rates and the amount of equity held at the time of filing. Conversely, exemptions are strongly negatively associated with the availability of unsecured credit. The welfare consequences of exemptions, while small, are positive for high exemptions and negative for low ones. Steady state welfare is maximized under a full exemption, and is worth $28.24 annually to the average household. The results are robust, and show that increases in bankruptcy exemptions beyond current state averages are largely a matter of indifference, and do not merit the heated debate they have generated.
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  • Athreya, Kartik, 2006. "Fresh start or head start? Uniform bankruptcy exemptions and welfare," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 30(11), pages 2051-2079, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:dyncon:v:30:y:2006:i:11:p:2051-2079
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    Cited by:

    1. Carlos Hatchondo, Juan & Martinez, Leonardo & Sánchez, Juan M., 2015. "Mortgage defaults," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 173-190.
      • Hatchondo, Juan Carlos & Martinez, Leonardo & Sánchez, Juan M., 2011. "Mortgage defaults," Working Papers 2011-019, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, revised 31 Jul 2015.
      • Leonardo Martinez & Juan Carlos Hatchondo & Juan M. Sanchez, 2012. "Mortgage Defaults," IMF Working Papers 12/26, International Monetary Fund.
      • Juan Carlos Hatchondo & Leonardo Martinez & Juan M. Sanchez, 2011. "Mortgage defaults," Working Paper 11-05, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
      • Juan Carlos Hatchondo & Leonardo Martinez & Juan M. Sanchez, 2015. "Mortgage Defaults," Caepr Working Papers 2015-011 Classification-D, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
    2. Mankart, Jochen, 2014. "The (Un-) importance of Chapter 7 wealth exemption levels," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 1-16.
    3. Thomas Hintermaier & Winfried Koeniger, 2009. "Debt Portfolios," Working Papers 646, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
    4. Mankart, Jochen, 2011. "The optimal Chapter 7 exemption level in a life-cycle model with asset portfolios," Annual Conference 2011 (Frankfurt, Main): The Order of the World Economy - Lessons from the Crisis 48703, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    5. Winfried Koeniger & Thomas Hintermaier, 2009. "Bankruptcy and Debt Portfolios," 2009 Meeting Papers 348, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. 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.
    7. Lisa L. Posey & Vickie Bajtelsmit, 2017. "Insurance and Endogenous Bankruptcy Risk: When is it Rational to Choose Gambling, Insurance, and Potential Bankruptcy?," The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance Theory, Springer;International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics (The Geneva Association), vol. 42(1), pages 15-40, March.
    8. Charles Grant & Winfried Koeniger, 2009. "Redistributive Taxation and Personal Bankruptcy in U.S. States," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 445-467, August.
    9. Mankart, Jochen & Rodano, Giacomo, 2015. "Personal bankruptcy law, debt portfolios, and entrepreneurship," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 157-172.
    10. Igor Livshits, 2015. "Recent Developments In Consumer Credit And Default Literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 594-613, September.
    11. Pavan, Marina, 2008. "Consumer durables and risky borrowing: The effects of bankruptcy protection," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(8), pages 1441-1456, November.
    12. 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.
    13. Akyol, Ahmet & Athreya, Kartik, 2011. "Credit and self-employment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 363-385, March.
    14. Kartik Athreya & Ahmet Akyol, 2007. "Unsecured Credit and Self-Employment," 2007 Meeting Papers 49, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    15. Nadja König, 2016. "Household Debt and Macrodynamics - How do Income Distribution and Insolvency Regulations interact?," Macroeconomics and Finance Series 201603, University of Hamburg, Department of Socioeconomics.
    16. Grant, Charles, 2010. "Evidence on the insurance effect of bankruptcy exemptions," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(9), pages 2247-2254, September.

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