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Consumer bankruptcy: a fresh start

  • Igor Livshits
  • James MacGee
  • Michele Tertilt

American consumer bankruptcy provides for a Fresh Start through the discharge of a household’s debt. Until recently, many European countries specified a No Fresh Start policy of life-long liability for debt. The trade-off between these two policies is that while Fresh Start provides insurance across states, it drives up interest rates and thereby makes life-cycle smoothing more difficult. This paper quantitatively compares these bankruptcy rules using a life-cycle model with incomplete markets calibrated to the U.S. and Germany. A key innovation is that households face idiosyncratic uncertainty about their net asset holdings (expense shocks) and labor income. We find that expense uncertainty plays a key role in evaluating consumer bankruptcy laws.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Working Papers with number 617.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmwp:617
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  1. Alexopoulos, Michelle & Domowitz, Ian, 1998. "Personal Liabilities and Bankruptcy Reform: An International Perspective," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 127-59, October.
  2. William R. Zame, 1990. "Efficiency and the Role of Default When Security Markets are Incomplete," UCLA Economics Working Papers 585, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae & Makoto Nakajima & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2007. "A Quantitative Theory of Unsecured Consumer Credit with Risk of Default," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(6), pages 1525-1589, November.
  4. Wenli Li, 2001. "To forgive or not to forgive : an analysis of U.S. consumer bankruptcy choices," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 1-22.
  5. Kocherlakota, Narayana R, 1996. "Implications of Efficient Risk Sharing without Commitment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 595-609, October.
  6. Johnson, Richard W & Neumark, David, 1996. "Wage Declines among Older Men," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(4), pages 740-48, November.
  7. Marina Pavan, 2003. "Consumer Durables and Risky Borrowing: the Effects of Bankruptcy Protection," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 573, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 01 May 2005.
  8. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris I. Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2000. "Consumption and Risk Sharing Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 7995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Mich�le Tertilt, 2007. "Consumer Bankruptcy: A Fresh Start," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 402-418, March.
  11. 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.
  12. Steven J. Davis & Felix Kubler & Paul Willen, 2002. "Borrowing Costs and the Demand for Equity Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 9331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 7271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Timothy J. Kehoe & David K. Levine, 1992. "Debt constrained asset markets," Working Papers 445, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  15. Orazio P. Attanasio & Guglielmo Weber, 1994. "Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," NBER Working Papers 4795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Hansen, G D, 1993. "The Cyclical and Secular Behaviour of the Labour Input: Comparing Efficiency Units and Hours Worked," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(1), pages 71-80, Jan.-Marc.
  17. Pradeep Dubey & John Geanakoplos & Martin Shubik, 2000. "Default in a General Equilibrium Model with Incomplete Markets," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1247, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  18. Ian Domowitz & Robert L. Sartain, 1999. "Determinants of the Consumer Bankruptcy Decision," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(1), pages 403-420, 02.
  19. Jerome Adda & Russell W. Cooper, 2003. "Dynamic Economics: Quantitative Methods and Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262012014, June.
  20. Christopher D. Carroll & Andrew A. Samwick, 1995. "The Nature of Precautionary Wealth," NBER Working Papers 5193, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Scott Fay & Erik Hurst & Michelle J. White, 2002. "The Household Bankruptcy Decision," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(3), pages 706-718, June.
  22. Fernández-Villaverde, Jesús & Krueger, Dirk, 2011. "Consumption And Saving Over The Life Cycle: How Important Are Consumer Durables?," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(05), pages 725-770, November.
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