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The (Un-) importance of Chapter 7 wealth exemption levels

  • Jochen, Mankart

    ()

This paper examines the effects of the Chapter 7 wealth exemption level on welfare, bankruptcy filings, debt, and on asset holdings. I build a heterogeneous agent life cycle model which features uninsurable income and expense shocks. Moreover, households can borrow and save simultaneously. When a borrower defaults on her debt by filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, she can keep her assets up to the wealth exemption level. Wealth exemption levels are important for two reasons. First, they explain the extensive and intensive margin of the credit card debt puzzle identified by Gross and Souleles (2002b). Around thirty percent of borrowers, both in the model and in the data, who borrow at high interest rates simultaneously save at low interest rates. However, these borrowers borrow and save only relatively small amounts, a few thousand U.S. Dollars. Second, ignoring the exemption level biases results because it overstates the costs of defaulting. The welfare gains from Chapter 7 compared to the European system, where debt is not discharged, are twice as high when exemption levels are positive compared to when they are ignored. At the same time, wealth exemption levels are unimportant in the sense that they have an impact only at low exemption levels. The effects of increases in the exemption level fade out very quickly. There is no strong positive relationship between exemption levels, which vary across U.S. states, and default rates in the model. This is in contrast to the previous literature, but consistent with the data. The reason is that those borrowers who might default do not own much wealth. Therefore, only very few households are affected by increases in the exemption level.

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File URL: http://www1.vwa.unisg.ch/RePEc/usg/econwp/EWP-1211.pdf
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Paper provided by University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science in its series Economics Working Paper Series with number 1211.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: May 2012
Date of revision: Sep 2013
Handle: RePEc:usg:econwp:2012:11
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  1. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Chris & Yaron, Amir, 2002. "Consumption and Risk Sharing Over the Life Cycle," Seminar Papers 702, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  2. Jesus Fernández-Villaverde & Dirk Krueger, 2007. "Consumption over the Life Cycle: Facts from Consumer Expenditure Survey Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 552-565, August.
  3. David B. Gross, 2002. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(1), pages 319-347, March.
  4. Thomas Hintermaier & Winfried Koeniger, 2009. "Debt Portfolios," Working Papers 646, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
  5. Paula Lopes, 2008. "Credit Card Debt and Default over the Life Cycle," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 40(4), pages 769-790, 06.
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  7. Irina A. Telyukova & Randall Wright, 2008. "A Model of Money and Credit, with Application to the Credit Card Debt Puzzle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(2), pages 629-647.
  8. P. Dubey & J. Geanakoplos & M . Shubik, 2001. "Default and Punishment in General Equilibrium," Department of Economics Working Papers 01-07, Stony Brook University, Department of Economics.
  9. Kartik Athreya, 2004. "Fresh start or head start? Uniform bankruptcy exemptions and welfare," Working Paper 03-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  10. Li, Wenli & Sarte, Pierre-Daniel, 2006. "U.S. consumer bankruptcy choice: The importance of general equilibrium effects," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 613-631, April.
  11. Mankart, Jochen & Rodano, Giacomo, 2012. "Bankruptcy Law, Debt Portfolios, and Entrepreneurship," Economics Working Paper Series 1216, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  12. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data," NBER Working Papers 8314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Edelberg, Wendy, 2006. "Risk-based pricing of interest rates for consumer loans," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 2283-2298, November.
  14. Kartik Athreya & Xuan S. Tam & Eric R. Young, 2011. "A quantitative theory of information and unsecured credit," Working Paper 08-06, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Telyukova, Irina, 2008. "Household Need for Liquidity and the Credit Card Debt Puzzle," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt4c67r71r, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  18. Lars Lefgren & Frank McIntyre, 2009. "Explaining the Puzzle of Cross-State Differences in Bankruptcy Rates," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(2), pages 367-393, 05.
  19. Athreya, Kartik B., 2008. "Default, insurance, and debt over the life-cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 752-774, May.
  20. Carol C. Bertaut & Michael Haliassos & Michael Reiter, 2009. "Credit Card Debt Puzzles and Debt Revolvers for Self Control," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 13(4), pages 657-692.
  21. 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.
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