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Macroeconomic Effects of Bankruptcy & Foreclosure Policies

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  • Kurt Mitman

    () (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract

Bankruptcy laws govern consumer default on unsecured credit. Foreclosure laws regulate default on secured mortgage debt. I investigate to what extent differences in foreclosure and bankruptcy laws can jointly explain variation in default rates across states. I construct a general equilibrium model where heterogeneous infinitely-lived households have access to unsecured borrowing and can finance housing purchases with mortgages. Households can default separately on both types of debt. The model is calibrated to match national foreclosure and bankruptcy rates and aggregate statistics related to household net worth and debt. The model can account for 83% of the variation in bankruptcy rates due to differences in bankruptcy and foreclosure law. I find that more generous homestead exemptions raise the cost of unsecured borrowing. Households in states with high exemptions therefore hold less unsecured and more mortgage debt compared to low exemption states, which leads to lower bankruptcy rates but higher foreclosure rates. The model also predicts recourse results in higher bankruptcy rates and a higher coincidence of foreclosure and bankruptcy. I use the model to evaluate how proposed and implemented changes to bankruptcy policy affect default rates and welfare. The 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act yields large welfare gains (1% consumption equivalent variation) but results in increases in both foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. I find that implementing the optimal joint foreclosure and bankruptcy policy, which is characterized by no-recourse mortgages and a homestead exemption equal to one quarter of median income, yields modest welfare gains (0.3% consumption equivalent variation).

Suggested Citation

  • Kurt Mitman, 2011. "Macroeconomic Effects of Bankruptcy & Foreclosure Policies," PIER Working Paper Archive 11-015, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:11-015
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    File URL: https://economics.sas.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/filevault/11-015.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anthony Pennington-Cross, 2006. "The Value of Foreclosed Property," Journal of Real Estate Research, American Real Estate Society, vol. 28(2), pages 193-214.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kyle Herkenhoff & Lee Ohanian, 2019. "The Impact of Foreclosure Delay on U.S. Employment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 31, pages 63-83, January.
    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. Gordon, Grey, 2017. "Optimal bankruptcy code: A fresh start for some," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 123-149.
    4. Chatterjee, Satyajit & Gordon, Grey, 2012. "Dealing with consumer default: Bankruptcy vs garnishment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(S), pages 1-16.
    5. John Y. Campbell & João F. Cocco, 2015. "A Model of Mortgage Default," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 70(4), pages 1495-1554, August.
    6. Gordon, Grey, 2017. "Optimal bankruptcy code: A fresh start for some," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 123-149.
    7. Kyle Herkenhoff & Lee Ohanian, 2019. "The Impact of Foreclosure Delay on U.S. Employment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 31, pages 63-83, January.
    8. J. Carter Braxton & Gordon Phillips & Kyle Herkenhoff, 2018. "Can the Unemployed Borrow? Implications for Public Insurance," 2018 Meeting Papers 564, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Nakajima, Makoto, 2017. "Assessing bankruptcy reform in a model with temptation and equilibrium default," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 42-64.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Bankruptcy; Foreclosure; Housing; Default Risk; Household Debt;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • K35 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Personal Bankruptcy Law
    • R21 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Housing Demand

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