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The Political Economy of Property Exemption Laws


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


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

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Reint Gropp & John Karl Scholz & Michelle J. White, 1997. "Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Supply and Demand," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 217-251.
    2. Brinig, Margaret F & Buckley, F H, 1996. "The Market for Deadbeats," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 201-232, January.
    3. Berkowitz, Jeremy & Hynes, Richard, 1999. "Bankruptcy Exemptions and the Market for Mortgage Loans," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 809-830, October.
    4. Lin, Emily Y. & White, Michelle J., 2001. "Bankruptcy and the Market for Mortgage and Home Improvement Loans," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 138-162, July.
    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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    Cited by:

    1. Corradin, Stefano & Gropp, Reint & Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc, 2010. "Who Invests in Home Equity to Exempt Wealth from Bankruptcy?," CEPR Discussion Papers 8097, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Berger, Allen N. & Cerqueiro, Geraldo & Penas, María F., 2011. "Does debtor protection really protect debtors? Evidence from the small business credit market," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 1843-1857, July.
    3. Jeremy Berkowitz & Michelle J. White, 2002. "Bankruptcy and Small Firms' Access to Credit," NBER Working Papers 9010, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Kurt Mitman, 2016. "Macroeconomic Effects of Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Policies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(8), pages 2219-2255, August.
    5. Aloisio Araujo & Bruno Funchal, 2015. "How Much Should Debtors be Punished in Case of Default?," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 47(2), pages 229-245, April.
    6. Gross, Tal & Notowidigdo, Matthew J., 2011. "Health insurance and the consumer bankruptcy decision: Evidence from expansions of Medicaid," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 767-778, August.
    7. 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.
    8. Corradin, Stefano & Gropp, Reint & Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc, 2016. "The effect of personal bankruptcy exemptions on investment in home equity," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 77-98.
    9. Michelle J. White, 2005. "Economic Analysis of Corporate and Personal Bankruptcy Law," NBER Working Papers 11536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Lars Lefgren & Frank McIntyre, 2009. "Explaining the Puzzle of Cross-State Differences in Bankruptcy Rates," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(2), pages 367-393, May.
    11. Iftekhar Hasan & Haizhi Wang, 2008. "The US bankruptcy law and private equity financing: empirical evidence," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 5-19, June.
    12. Benito ArruÒada, 2003. "Property Enforcement as Organized Consent," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 401-444, October.
    13. Michel Robe & Eva Maria Steiger, 2016. "Insolvency and its Consequences: A Historical Perspective," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 13(4), pages 35-40, 02.
    14. Cerqueiro, G.M. & Penas, M.F., 2011. "How Does Personal Bankruptcy Law Affect Start-ups?," Discussion Paper 2011-106, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    15. Dilip Mookherjee & Ulf von Lilienfeld-Toal, 2011. "How Did the US Housing Slump Begin? The Role of the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2011-033, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    16. Akyol, Ahmet & Athreya, Kartik, 2011. "Credit and self-employment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 363-385, March.
    17. Kartik Athreya & Ahmet Akyol, 2007. "Unsecured Credit and Self-Employment," 2007 Meeting Papers 49, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    18. Cerqueiro, G.M., 2009. "Information asymmetries, banking markets, and small business lending," Other publications TiSEM 6b448af8-d15e-4862-923f-2, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    19. Hansen, Mary Eschelbach & Hansen, Bradley A., 2012. "Crisis and Bankruptcy: The Mediating Role of State Law, 1920–1932," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(02), pages 448-468, June.
    20. repec:ces:ifodic:v:13:y:2016:i:4:p:19191585 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Jeffrey Traczynski, 2011. "Divorce Rates and Bankruptcy Exemption Levels in the United States," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(3), pages 751-779.

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