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Macroeconomic Effects of Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Policies

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  • Kurt Mitman

    (University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Kurt Mitman, 2012. "Macroeconomic Effects of Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Policies," 2012 Meeting Papers 563, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed012:563
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Reint Gropp & John Karl Scholz & Michelle J. White, 1997. "Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Supply and Demand," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 217-251.
    2. Thomas Hintermaier & Winfried Koeniger, 2016. "Debt Portfolios and Homestead Exemptions," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 103-141, October.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Satyajit Chatterjee & Burcu Eyigungor, 2015. "A Quantitative Analysis of the US Housing and Mortgage Markets and the Foreclosure Crisis," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(2), pages 165-184, April.
    6. 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.
    7. Akyol, Ahmet & Athreya, Kartik, 2011. "Credit and self-employment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 363-385, March.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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 123-147, November.
    11. 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.
    12. Sumit Agarwal & Gene Amromin & Souphala Chomsisengphet & Tim Landvoigt & Tomasz Piskorski & Amit Seru & Vincent Yao, 2015. "Mortgage Refinancing, Consumer Spending, and Competition: Evidence from the Home Affordable Refinancing Program," NBER Working Papers 21512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    1. repec:eee:dyncon:v:87:y:2018:i:c:p:124-151 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:red:issued:15-259 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Gete, Pedro & Zecchetto, Franco, 2017. "Distributional Implications of Government Guarantees in Mortgage Markets," MPRA Paper 80643, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Fang, Hanming & Kim, You Suk & Li, Wenli, 2016. "The dynamics of subprime adjustable-rate mortgage default: a structural estimation," Working Papers 16-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    5. 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.
    6. Hedlund, Aaron, 2016. "Illiquidity and its discontents: Trading delays and foreclosures in the housing market," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 1-13.
    7. repec:red:issued:15-201 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Aaron Hedlund, 2014. "The Cyclical Dynamics of Illiquid Housing, Debt, and Foreclosures," Working Papers 1416, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    9. Steven Laufer, . "Equity Extraction and Mortgage Default," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Davis, Morris A. & Van Nieuwerburgh, Stijn, 2015. "Housing, Finance, and the Macroeconomy," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    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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