IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The macroeconomics of U.S. consumer bankruptcy choice : chapter 7 or chapter 13?


  • Wenli Li
  • Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte


Because of the recent surge in U.S. personal defaults, Congress is currently debating bankruptcy reform legislation requiring a means test for Chapter 7 filers. This paper explores the effects of such a reform in a model where, in contrast to previous work, bankruptcy options and production are explicitly taken into account. Our findings indicate that means testing would not improve upon current bankruptcy provisions and, at best, leaves aggregate filings, output, and welfare unchanged. Put simply,given already existing provisions, the introduction of an efficient means test would not bind. However, we do find that a tightening of existing bankruptcy laws, in the form of lower Chapter 7 asset exemptions, can be welfare improving. Contrary to previous studies, the analysis also suggests that eliminating bankruptcy entirely would cause significant declines in both output and welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Wenli Li & Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte, 2002. "The macroeconomics of U.S. consumer bankruptcy choice : chapter 7 or chapter 13?," Working Paper 02-01, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedrwp:02-01

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hansen, Gary D., 1985. "Indivisible labor and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 309-327, November.
    2. Mortensen, Dale & Pissarides, Christopher, 2011. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 1-19.
    3. Vincenzo Quadrini, 2000. "Entrepreneurship, Saving and Social Mobility," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 3(1), pages 1-40, January.
    4. Hansen, Gary D & Imrohoroglu, Ayse, 1992. "The Role of Unemployment Insurance in an Economy with Liquidity Constraints and Moral Hazard," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 118-142, February.
    5. Aiyagari, S. Rao & McGrattan, Ellen R., 1998. "The optimum quantity of debt," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 447-469, October.
    6. Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Michèle Tertilt, 2007. "Consumer Bankruptcy: A Fresh Start," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 402-418, March.
    7. David B. Gross, 2002. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(1), pages 319-347, March.
    8. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
    9. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-1370, November.
    10. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-684.
    11. 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.
    12. Jon P. Nelson, 1999. "Consumer Bankruptcy And Chapter Choice: State Panel Evidence," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 17(4), pages 552-566, October.
    13. 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.
    14. Andreas Lehnert & Dean M. Maki, 2002. "Consumption, debt and portfolio choice: testing the effect of bankruptcy law," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-14, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    15. White, M.J., 1998. "Why Don't More Households File for Bankruptcy?," Papers 98-03, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
    16. 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.
    17. Wang, Hung-Jen & White, Michelle J, 2000. "An Optimal Personal Bankruptcy Procedure and Proposed Reforms," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 255-286, January.
    18. Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith & Jr., 1998. "Income and Wealth Heterogeneity in the Macroeconomy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 867-896, October.
    19. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "Macroeconomics with frictions," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 24-40.
    20. Buckley, F H & Brinig, Margaret F, 1998. "The Bankruptcy Puzzle," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 187-207, January.
    21. Ian Domowitz & Robert L. Sartain, 1999. "Determinants of the Consumer Bankruptcy Decision," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(1), pages 403-420, February.
    22. White, Michelle J, 1998. "Why Don't More Households File for Bankruptcy?," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 205-231, October.
    23. Huggett, Mark, 1993. "The risk-free rate in heterogeneous-agent incomplete-insurance economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 17(5-6), pages 953-969.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Simon Janßen & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2009. "Skill Obsolescence, Vintage Effects and Changing Tasks," Applied Economics Quarterly (formerly: Konjunkturpolitik), Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 55(1), pages 83-103.
    2. Mateos-Planas, Xavier, 2009. "A model of credit limits and bankruptcy with applications to welfare and indebtedness," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0910, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
    3. Kartik B. Athreya, 2005. "Equilibrium models of personal bankruptcy : a survey," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 73-98.
    4. Pavan, Marina, 2008. "Consumer durables and risky borrowing: The effects of bankruptcy protection," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(8), pages 1441-1456, November.
    5. N. Narajabad, Borghan, 2010. "Information Technology and the Rise of Household Bankruptcy," MPRA Paper 21058, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item



    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fedrwp:02-01. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christian Pascasio). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.