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Macroeconomic Effects of Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Policies

  • Kurt Mitman

    (University of Pennsylvania)

Bankruptcy laws govern consumer default on unsecured credit. Foreclosure laws regulate default on secured mortgage debt. In this paper I use a structural model to argue that bankruptcy and foreclosure are inter-related. This interaction is important for understanding the cross-state variation in bankruptcy rates and evaluating reforms to default policies. To study this interaction, I construct a general-equilibrium model where heterogeneous households have access to unsecured borrowing and can finance housing purchases with mortgages. Households can default separately on both types of debt. The calibrated model is quantitatively consistent with the observed cross-state correlation between policies and default rates. In particular, the model correctly predicts that bankruptcy rates are lower in states with more generous homestead exemptions (the amount of home equity that may be retained after filing for bankruptcy), despite the decreased penalty of declaring bankruptcy. In equilibrium, that lower penalty of going bankrupt in high exemption states raises the price of unsecured credit. Households respond to the higher price by taking on more highly leveraged mortgages and less unsecured credit. As a result, bankruptcy rates are lower in high exemption states than in low exemption states, but foreclosure rates are higher. I use the model to evaluate the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act which made it more difficult for high income households to declare bankruptcy. Despite being intended to reduce bankruptcy rates, I find that the reform substantially increases them. In addition, the reform has the unintended consequence of considerably increasing foreclosure rates. Nevertheless, the reform yields large welfare gains.

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File URL: https://economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2012/paper_563.pdf
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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2012 Meeting Papers with number 563.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed012:563
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Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/
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  1. 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.
  2. Satyajit Chatterjee & Burcu Eyigungor, 2011. "A quantitative analysis of the U.S. housing and mortgage markets and the foreclosure crisis," Working Papers 11-26, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  3. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae & Makoto Nakajima & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2002. "A Quantitative Theory of Unsecured Consumer Credit with Risk of Default," Centro de Alti­simos Estudios Ri­os Pe©rez(CAERP) 2, Centro de Altisimos Estudios Rios Perez (CAERP).
  4. Jeske, Karsten & Krueger, Dirk & Mitman, Kurt, 2011. "Housing and the Macroeconomy: The Role of Bailout Guarantees for Government Sponsored Enterprises," CEPR Discussion Papers 8624, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Kartik B. Athreya & Ahmet Akyol, 2009. "Credit and self-employment," Working Paper 09-05, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  6. Wenli Li & Michelle J. White & Ning S. Zhu, 2010. "Did bankruptcy reform cause mortgage default rates to rise?," Working Papers 10-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  7. Hynes, Richard M & Malani, Anup & Posner, Eric A, 2004. "The Political Economy of Property Exemption Laws," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(1), pages 19-43, April.
  8. Wenli Li & Michelle J. White & Ning Zhu, 2011. "Did Bankruptcy Reform Cause Mortgage Defaults to Rise?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 123-47, November.
  9. Andra C. Ghent & Marianna Kudlyak, 2011. "Recourse and Residential Mortgage Default: Evidence from US States 1," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 24(9), pages 3139-3186.
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