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Fresh start or head start? The effect of filing for personal bankruptcy on the labor supply

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  • Song Han
  • Wenli Li

Abstract

The key feature of the modern U.S. personal bankruptcy law is to provide debtors a financial fresh start through debt discharge. The primary justification for the discharge policy is to preserve human capital by maintaining incentives for work. In this paper, we test this fresh start argument by providing the first estimate of the effect of personal bankruptcy filing on the labor supply using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Our econometric approach controls for the endogenous self-selection of bankruptcy filing and allows for dependence over time for the same household. We find that filing for bankruptcy does not have a positive impact on annual hours worked by bankrupt households, a result mainly due to the wealth effects of debt discharge. The finding is robust to a number of alternative model specifications and sample selections. Therefore, our analysis does not find supporting evidence for the human capital argument for bankruptcy discharge.

Suggested Citation

  • Song Han & Wenli Li, 2004. "Fresh start or head start? The effect of filing for personal bankruptcy on the labor supply," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2004-28, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2004-28
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    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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Song Han & Geng Li, 2011. "Household Borrowing after Personal Bankruptcy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 43(2‐3), pages 491-517, March.
    2. Song Han & Geng Li, 2011. "Household Borrowing after Personal Bankruptcy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 43(2‐3), pages 491-517, March.
    3. 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.
    4. Primo David M. & Green Wm Scott, 2011. "Bankruptcy Law and Entrepreneurship," Entrepreneurship Research Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 1(2), pages 1-22, March.
    5. Jochen Bigus & Eva-Maria Steiger, 2006. "When it pays to be honest: How a variable period of good conduct can improve incentives in personal bankruptcy proceedings," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 233-253, November.
    6. Eva-Maria Steiger, 2006. "Ex-Ante vs. Ex-Post Efficiency in Personal Bankruptcy Proceedings," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2006-17, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.

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    Keywords

    Bankruptcy; Labor supply;

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