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Liquidity Constraints and Consumer Bankruptcy: Evidence from Tax Rebates

  • Tal Gross
  • Matthew J. Notowidigdo
  • Jialan Wang

This paper estimates the extent to which legal fees prevent liquidity-constrained households from declaring bankruptcy. To do so, it studies how the 2001 and 2008 tax rebates affected consumer bankruptcy filings. We exploit the randomized timing of the rebate checks and estimate that the rebates caused a significant, short-run increase in consumer bankruptcies in both years, with larger effects in 2008 when the rebates were more generous and more widely distributed. Using hand-collected data from individual bankruptcy petitions, we document that the rebates caused an increase in the average liabilities and the liabilities-to-income ratios of filers.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17807.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17807.

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Date of creation: Feb 2012
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Publication status: published as “Liquidity Constraints and Consumer Bankruptcy: Evidence from Tax Rebates,” with Matthew Notowidigdo and Jialan Wang. Review of Economics and Statistics, accepted. Manuscript. Appendix. Featured in the June 2012 NBER Digest Media Coverage: Los Angeles Times; Huffington Post; Vox; Forbes; CNN. Older Version: NBER Working Paper #17807
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17807
Note: PE
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  1. Gary D. Hansen & Ayse Imrohoroglu, 1990. "The Role of Unemployment Insurance in an Economy with Liquidity Constraints and Moral Hazard," UCLA Economics Working Papers 583, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Jonathan A. Parker & Nicholas S. Souleles & David S. Johnson & Robert McClelland, 2013. "Consumer Spending and the Economic Stimulus Payments of 2008," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2530-53, October.
  3. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2007. "The reaction of consumer spending and debt to tax rebates – evidence from consumer credit data," Working Paper Series WP-07-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  4. Gropp, Reint & Scholz, John Karl & White, Michelle J, 1997. "Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Supply and Demand," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 217-51, February.
  5. Ning Zhu, 2011. "Household Consumption and Personal Bankruptcy," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(1), pages 1 - 37.
  6. Nicholas S. Souleles & Jonathan A. Parker & David S. Johnson, 2006. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1589-1610, December.
  7. Melvin Stephens Jr., 2002. "'3rd of tha Month': Do Social Security Recipients Smooth Consumption Between Checks?," NBER Working Papers 9135, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Wang, H.J. & White, M., 1998. "An Optimal Personal Bankruptcy Procedure and Proposed Reform," Papers 98-07, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  9. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2009. "The Consequences of Mortgage Credit Expansion: Evidence from the U.S. Mortgage Default Crisis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1449-1496, November.
  10. Larry H. Filer II & Jonathan D. Fisher, 2005. "The Consumption Effects Associated with Filing for Personal Bankruptcy," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 837-854, April.
  11. Susan M. Dynarski, 1999. "Does Aid Matter? Measuring the Effect of Student Aid on College Attendance and Completion," NBER Working Papers 7422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Raj Chetty, 2008. "Erratum: Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 1197-1197, December.
  13. Evans, William N. & Moore, Timothy J., 2011. "The short-term mortality consequences of income receipt," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1410-1424.
  14. Nathan B. Anderson & Jane K. Dokko, 2011. "Liquidity problems and early payment default among subprime mortgages," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2011-09, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  15. Chetty, Raj, 2008. "Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Scholarly Articles 9751256, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  16. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
  17. 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.
  18. Nichols, Albert L & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1982. "Targeting Transfers through Restrictions on Recipients," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 372-77, May.
  19. Erik Hurst & Annamaria Lusardi, 2004. "Liquidity Constraints, Household Wealth, and Entrepreneurship," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 319-347, April.
  20. Chang-Tai Hsieh, 2003. "Do Consumers React to Anticipated Income Changes? Evidence from the Alaska Permanent Fund," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 397-405, March.
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