On the welfare implications of restricting bankruptcy information
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates that adverse events such as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing must be removed from an individual's credit record after 10 years. The intent of the law is to provide partial consumption insurance by giving an individual a fresh start. However, the law obviously weakens incentives not to default, which can result in higher interest rates that in turn reduce intertemporal insurance. Because of this tradeoff, it is unclear how long is the optimal length of time that an adverse event remains on an individual's credit record. In this paper we assess the welfare consequences of varying the length of time that adverse events can be on one's credit record. We calibrate the model to US data where the exclusion parameter is set to be 10 years on average. Then we run a counterfactual to find the length that maximizes ex-post economywide welfare using a consumption equivalent measure. The model predicts agents prefer to remove the bankruptcy flag after one year, though the gains are small.
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