Debt Relief and Debtor Outcomes: Measuring the Effects of Consumer Bankruptcy Protection

Will Dobbie, Jae Song

NBER Working Paper No. 20520
Issued in September 2014
NBER Program(s):      LS   LE

Consumer bankruptcy is one of the largest social insurance programs in the United States, but little is known about its impact on debtors. We use 500,000 bankruptcy filings matched to administrative tax and foreclosure data to estimate the impact of Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection on subsequent outcomes. Exploiting the random assignment of bankruptcy filings to judges, we find that Chapter 13 protection increases annual earnings by $5,562, decreases five-year mortality by 1.2 percentage points, and decreases five-year foreclosure rates by 19.1 percentage points. These results come primarily from the deterioration of outcomes among dismissed filers, not gains by granted filers.

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Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20520

Published: Will Dobbie & Jae Song, 2015. "Debt Relief and Debtor Outcomes: Measuring the Effects of Consumer Bankruptcy Protection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1272-1311, March. citation courtesy of

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