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Macroeconomic Effects of Debt Relief: Consumer Bankruptcy Protections in the Great Recession

Author

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  • Auclert, Adrien
  • Dobbie, Will
  • Goldsmith-Pinkham, Paul

Abstract

This paper argues that the debt forgiveness provided by the U.S. consumer bankruptcy system helped stabilize employment levels during the Great Recession. We document that over this period, states with more generous bankruptcy exemptions had significantly smaller declines in non-tradable employment and larger increases in unsecured debt write-downs compared to states with less generous exemptions. We interpret these reduced form estimates as the relative effect of debt relief across states, and develop a general equilibrium model to recover the aggregate employment effect. The model yields three key results. First, substantial nominal rigidities are required to rationalize our reduced form estimates. Second, with monetary policy at the zero lower bound, traded good demand spillovers across states boosted employment everywhere. Finally, the ex-post debt forgiveness provided by the consumer bankruptcy system during the Great Recession increased aggregate employment by almost two percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Auclert, Adrien & Dobbie, Will & Goldsmith-Pinkham, Paul, 2019. "Macroeconomic Effects of Debt Relief: Consumer Bankruptcy Protections in the Great Recession," CEPR Discussion Papers 13598, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:13598
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Foote, Christopher L. & Loewenstein, Lara & Willen, Paul S., 2016. "Cross-sectional patterns of mortgage debt during the housing boom: evidence and implications," Working Papers 16-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    2. Martin Beraja & Erik Hurst & Juan Ospina, 2016. "The Aggregate Implications of Regional Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 21956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Dupor, Bill & Karabarbounis, Marios & Kudlyak, Marianna & Mehkari, M. Saif, 2018. "Regional Consumption Responses and the Aggregate Fiscal Multiplier," Working Paper Series 2018-4, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    4. Alberto Abadie & Susan Athey & Guido Imbens & Jeffrey Wooldridge, 2017. "When Should You Adjust Standard Errors for Clustering?," Papers 1710.02926, arXiv.org, revised Oct 2017.
    5. Gabriel Chodorow-Reich & Alp Simsek & Plamen Nenov, 2019. "Stock Market Wealth and the Real Economy: A Local Labor Market Approach," 2019 Meeting Papers 1240, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Stephanie M. Wilshusen, 2011. "Meeting the demand for debt relief," Consumer Finance Institute discussion papers 11-04, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    7. Chatterjee, Satyajit & Gordon, Grey, 2012. "Dealing with consumer default: Bankruptcy vs garnishment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(S), pages 1-16.
    8. Rodrigo Adão & Costas Arkolakis & Federico Esposito, 2019. "Spatial Linkages, Global Shocks, and Local Labor Markets: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 25544, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gabriel Chodorow-Reich & Alp Simsek & Plamen Nenov, 2019. "Stock Market Wealth and the Real Economy: A Local Labor Market Approach," 2019 Meeting Papers 1240, Society for Economic Dynamics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumer bankruptcy; micro to macro; regional multipliers;

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • F45 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Macroeconomic Issues of Monetary Unions
    • K35 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Personal Bankruptcy Law

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