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Forgive and forget: who gets credit after bankruptcy and why?

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  • Ethan Cohen-Cole
  • Burcu Duygan-Bump
  • Judit Montoriol-Garriga

Abstract

Conventional wisdom about individuals who have gone bankrupt is that they find it very difficult to get credit for at least some time after their bankruptcy. However, there is very little non-survey based empirical evidence on the availability of credit post-bankruptcy. This paper makes two contributions using data from one of the largest credit bureaus in the US. First, we show that individuals who file for bankruptcy can indeed get credit very quickly after they file. Indeed, 90% of individuals have access to some sort of credit within the 18 months after filing for bankruptcy, and 66% have unsecured credit. Second, we show that those individuals who are effectively the least punished and can get the easiest access to credit after bankruptcy tend to be the ones who have shown the least ability and propensity to repay their debt prior to declaring bankruptcy. In fact, a significant fraction of individuals at the bottom of the credit quality spectrum seem to receive more credit after filing than before. We interpret the widespread credit access and the difference in credit provision across borrower types as evidence that lenders target at-risk borrowers. By means of a simple stylized model we show that this observation is consistent with a profit maximizing lender whose optimal strategy involves segmenting borrowers by observable credit quality and bankruptcy status and that offers credit contracts to each group. This interpretation is also in line with survey evidence that shows that lenders repeatedly solicit debtors to borrow after bankruptcy, with unsecured credit card being the easiest one to obtain.

Suggested Citation

  • Ethan Cohen-Cole & Burcu Duygan-Bump & Judit Montoriol-Garriga, 2009. "Forgive and forget: who gets credit after bankruptcy and why?," Risk and Policy Analysis Unit Working Paper QAU09-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbqu:qau09-2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gabriel Cuadra & Horacio Sapriza, 2006. "Sovereign Default, Terms of Trade and Interest Rates in Emerging Markets," Working Papers 2006-01, Banco de México.
    2. Aguiar, Mark & Gopinath, Gita, 2006. "Defaultable debt, interest rates and the current account," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 64-83, June.
    3. Jonathan Fisher & Larry Filer & Angela Lyons, "undated". "Is the Bankruptcy Flag Binding? Access to Credit Markets for Post-Bankruptcy Households," American Law & Economics Association Annual Meetings 1041, American Law & Economics Association.
    4. David K. Musto, 2004. "What Happens When Information Leaves a Market? Evidence from Postbankruptcy Consumers," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(4), pages 725-748, October.
    5. Song Han & Geng Li, 2011. "Household Borrowing after Personal Bankruptcy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 43, pages 491-517, March.
    6. Athreya, Kartik B., 2002. "Welfare implications of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(8), pages 1567-1595, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Dias & Christine Richmond & Diana Bonfim, 2010. "Access to Bank Credit after Corporate Default," Economic Bulletin and Financial Stability Report Articles and Banco de Portugal Economic Studies, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
    2. Viktar Fedaseyeu, 2012. "Debt Collection Agencies and the Supply of Consumer Credit," Working Papers 442, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    3. Régis Blazy & Bertrand Chopard & Éric Langlais & Ydriss Ziane, 2013. "L'effacement des dettes des particuliers surendettés : une étude empirique des décisions judiciaires," Economie & Prévision, La Documentation Française, vol. 0(1), pages 81-99.
    4. Mathur, Aparna, 2013. "Beyond bankruptcy: Does the US bankruptcy code provide a fresh start to entrepreneurs?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(11), pages 4198-4216.
    5. Jagtiani, Julapa & Li, Wenli, 2014. "Credit access after consumer bankruptcy filing: new evidence," Working Papers 14-25, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    6. Régis Blazy & Bertrand Chopard & Eric Langlais & Ydriss Ziane, 2013. "Personal Bankruptcy Law, Fresh Starts, and Judicial Practice," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 169(4), pages 680-702, December.
    7. Julapa Jagtiani & Wenli Li, 2013. "Credit access and credit performance after consumer bankruptcy filing: new evidence," Working Papers 13-24, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    8. Will Dobbie & Jae Song, 2015. "Debt Relief and Debtor Outcomes: Measuring the Effects of Consumer Bankruptcy Protection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1272-1311, March.
    9. Song Han & Benjamin J. Keys & Geng Li, 2011. "Credit supply to personal bankruptcy filers: evidence from credit card mailings," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2011-29, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    10. Daniel Dias & Christine Richmond & Diana Bonfim, 2011. "What Happens After Default? Stylized Facts on Access to Credit," Working Papers w201101, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
    11. Bonfim, Diana & Dias, Daniel A. & Richmond, Christine, 2012. "What happens after corporate default? Stylized facts on access to credit," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 2007-2025.
    12. Brown, Meta & Haughwout, Andrew F. & Lee, Donghoon & Van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2011. "Do we know what we owe? A comparison of borrower- and lender-reported consumer debt," Staff Reports 523, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, revised 01 Oct 2013.
    13. Jason Allen & Kiana Basiri, 2016. "The Impact of Bankruptcy Reform on Insolvency Choice and Consumer Credit," Staff Working Papers 16-26, Bank of Canada.
    14. William Hedberg & John Krainer, 2012. "Credit access following a mortgage default," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue oct29.
    15. Nadja König, 2016. "Personal Insolvency Dynamics in Germany and the UK -- A SUR-TAR Approach," Macroeconomics and Finance Series 201602, University of Hamburg, Department of Socioeconomics.

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    Keywords

    Bankruptcy ; Credit;

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