Seismic Effects of the Bankruptcy Reform
30 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2008 Last revised: 18 Sep 2012
Date Written: February 1, 2009
We argue that the 2005 bankruptcy abuse reform (BAR) contributed to the surge in subprime foreclosures that followed its passage. Before BAR, distressed mortgagors could free up income by filing bankruptcy and having their unsecured debts discharged. BAR blocks that maneuver for better-off filers by way of a means test. We identify the effects of BAR using state home equity bankruptcy exemptions; filers in low-exemption states were not very protected before BAR, so they would be less affected by the reform. Difference-in-difference regressions confirm four predictions implied by that identification strategy. Our findings add to research trying to explain the surge in subprime foreclosures and to a broader literature on household bankruptcy demand and credit supply.
Keywords: bankruptcy, subprime foreclosures, subprime mortgages, unsecured debt, credit card debt, home equity exemptions
JEL Classification: G21, G33, K35
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation