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Personal Bankruptcy and the Level of Entrepreneurial Activity

Listed author(s):
  • Fan, Wei
  • White, Michelle J
Registered author(s):

    The U.S. personal bankruptcy system functions as a bankruptcy system for small businesses as well as consumers, because debts of noncorporate firms are personal liabilities of the firms' owners. If the firm fails, the owner has an incentive to file for bankruptcy, since both business debts and the owner's personal debts will be discharged. In bankruptcy, the owner must give up assets above a fixed exemption level. Because exemption levels are set by the states, they vary widely. We show that higher bankruptcy exemption levels benefit potential entrepreneurs who are risk averse by providing partial wealth insurance and therefore that the probability of owning a business increases as the exemption level increases. We test this prediction and find that the probability of households owning businesses is 35 percent higher if they live in states with unlimited rather than low exemptions.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/382602
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    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Law and Economics.

    Volume (Year): 46 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 2 (October)
    Pages: 543-567

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:y:2003:v:46:i:2:p:543-67
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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    1. Bruce, Donald, 2000. "Effects of the United States tax system on transitions into self-employment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(5), pages 545-574, September.
    2. Evans, David S & Jovanovic, Boyan, 1989. "An Estimated Model of Entrepreneurial Choice under Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 808-827, August.
    3. Fairlie, Robert W, 1999. "The Absence of the African-American Owned Business: An Analysis of the Dynamics of Self-Employment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 80-108, January.
    4. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1979. "A General Equilibrium Entrepreneurial Theory of Firm Formation Based on Risk Aversion," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(4), pages 719-748, August.
    5. White, M.J., 1998. "Why It Pays to File for Bankruptcy: A Critical Look at Incentives Under U.S. Bankruptcy Laws and A Proposal for Change," Papers 98-02, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
    6. Dunn, Thomas & Holtz-Eakin, Douglas, 2000. "Financial Capital, Human Capital, and the Transition to Self-Employment: Evidence from Intergenerational Links," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 282-305, April.
    7. Wang, Hung-Jen & White, Michelle J, 2000. "An Optimal Personal Bankruptcy Procedure and Proposed Reforms," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 255-286, January.
    8. Longhofer, Stanley D., 1997. "Absolute Priority Rule Violations, Credit Rationing, and Efficiency," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 249-267, July.
    9. Schuetze, Herb J., 2000. "Taxes, economic conditions and recent trends in male self-employment: a Canada-US comparison," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(5), pages 507-544, September.
    10. Stanley D. Longhofer, 1997. "Absolute priority rule violations, credit rationing, and efficiency," Working Paper 9710, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
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