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Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies

Personal bankruptcies in the United States have increased dramatically, rising from 1.4 per thousand working age population in 1970 to 8.5 in 2002. We use a heterogeneous agent life-cycle model with competitive financial intermediaries who can observe households' earnings, age and current asset holdings to evaluate several commonly offered explanations. We find that increased uncertainty (income shocks, expense uncertainty) cannot quantitatively account for the rise in bankruptcies. Instead, stories related to a change in the credit market environment are more plausible. In particular, we find that a combination of a decrease in the transactions cost of lending and a decline in the cost of bankruptcy does a good job in accounting for the rise in consumer bankruptcy. We also argue that the abolition of usury laws and other legal changes are unimportant.

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Paper provided by University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute in its series University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute Working Papers with number 20066.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:uwo:epuwoc:20066
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Web page: http://economics.uwo.ca/research/research_papers/epri_workingpapers.html

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  1. Peterson, Richard L, 1983. " Usury Laws and Consumer Credit: A Note," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 38(4), pages 1299-1304, September.
  2. 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).
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  7. Barry Scholnick, 2000. "Regulation, Competition and Risk in the Market for Credit Cards," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 26(2), pages 171-181, June.
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  16. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2006. "Finite-Life, Private-Information Theory of Unsecured Debt," 2006 Meeting Papers 781, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  17. Christopher D. Carroll & Andrew A. Samwick, 1995. "The Nature of Precautionary Wealth," NBER Working Papers 5193, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Hubbard, R. Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P., 1994. "The importance of precautionary motives in explaining individual and aggregate saving," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 59-125, June.
  19. Buckley, F H & Brinig, Margaret F, 1998. "The Bankruptcy Puzzle," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 187-207, January.
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  23. Kartik Athreya, 2005. "Equilibrium models of personal bankruptcy : a survey," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 73-98.
  24. Gueorgui Kambourov & Iourii Manovskii, 2009. "Occupational Mobility and Wage Inequality," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(2), pages 731-759.
  25. Domowitz, Ian & Eovaldi, Thomas L, 1993. "The Impact of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 on Consumer Bankruptcy," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 803-35, October.
  26. Heathcote, Jonathan & Storesletten, Kjetil & Violante, Giovanni L, 2004. "The Cross-Sectional Implications of Rising Wage Inequality in the United States," CEPR Discussion Papers 4296, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  27. Igor Livshits & James MacGee & Mich�le Tertilt, 2007. "Consumer Bankruptcy: A Fresh Start," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 402-418, March.
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  30. Boyes, William J & Faith, Roger L, 1986. "Some Effects of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 139-49, April.
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  33. Kartik Athreya, 2004. "Shame as it ever was : stigma and personal bankruptcy," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 1-19.
  34. 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.
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  1. Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies (AEJ:MA 2010) in ReplicationWiki
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