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The Political Economy of Property Exemption Laws

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  • Hynes, Richard M
  • Malani, Anup
  • Posner, Eric A

Abstract

Exemption laws enable people who default on loans to protect certain assets from liquidation. Every state has its own set of exemption laws, and they vary widely. The 1978 federal bankruptcy law contains a set of national exemptions, which debtors in bankruptcy are permitted to use instead of their state's exemptions unless the state has formally "opted out" of the federal system. We contend that states' decisions to opt out shed light on their exemption levels. We find that states are more likely to opt out if their state exemption is lower than the federal exemption and that states are more likely to opt out if they also have a high bankruptcy filing rate and transfer little money to the poor. These latter findings suggest that studies that examine the impact of exemptions on, for example, the bankruptcy rate should not treat exemption levels as exogenous variables.

Suggested Citation

  • Hynes, Richard M & Malani, Anup & Posner, Eric A, 2004. "The Political Economy of Property Exemption Laws," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(1), pages 19-43, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:y:2004:v:47:i:1:p:19-43
    DOI: 10.1086/386276
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Peterson, Richard L. & Aoki, Kiyomi, 1984. "Bankruptcy filings before and after implementation of the bankruptcy reform law," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 95-105, February.
    6. Richard Hynes & Eric A. Posner, 2002. "The Law and Economics of Consumer Finance," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 168-207, January.
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