Debtors' Prisons in America: An Economic Analysis
Debtors' prisons have been commonplace throughout history, including in the United States. While imprisonment for debt no doubt elicited some repayment by benefactors of the debtor, we argue that its primary function was to deter default in the first place by giving borrowers an incentive to disclose hidden assets. Because of its cost, however, imprisonment was destined to be replaced by more efficient ways of preventing borrowers from sheltering assets. Empirical analysis of state laws banning imprisonment for debt provides support for this argument. In particular, the results suggest that states in which the publishing industry developed sooner (thus facilitating the flow of information) were more likely to enact early bans on imprisonment for debt.
|Date of creation:||Oct 2009|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: (860) 486-4889
Fax: (860) 486-4463
Web page: http://www.econ.uconn.edu/
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1982.
"The Optimal Use of Fines and Imprisonment,"
NBER Working Papers
0932, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Gary S. Becker, 1968.
"Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
- Mathias Dewatripont & Patrick Bolton, 2005.
ULB Institutional Repository
2013/9543, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
- Townsend, Robert M., 1979.
"Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification,"
Journal of Economic Theory,
Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 265-293, October.
- Robert M. Townsend, 1979. "Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification," Staff Report 45, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
- Bester, Helmut, 1987. "The role of collateral in credit markets with imperfect information," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 887-899, June.
- Levitt, Steven D., 1997. "Incentive compatibility constraints as an explanation for the use of prison sentences instead of fines," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 179-192, June.
- Rea, Samuel A, Jr, 1984. "Arm-breaking, Consumer Credit and Personal Bankruptcy," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 22(2), pages 188-208, April.
- Gale, Douglas & Hellwig, Martin, 1985. "Incentive-Compatible Debt Contracts: The One-Period Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 647-63, October.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2009-33. 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: (Mark McConnel)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.