How much debtors' punishment?

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2006-05-01
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This paper investigates how the bankruptcy exemptions applied by the Personal Bankruptcy Law in each American state a§ect the aggregated level of individuals and small businessesí loans. Higher levels of bankruptcy exemptions imply in a lenient rule, motivating debtors to Öle for bankruptcy, what makes lenders worsen the terms of credit. On the other hand, lower levels of exemptions imply in a harsh punishment to debtors, inhibiting their demand for credit fearing a possible bankruptcy by bad luck. ConÖrming the theoretical claims, empirical tests show the existence of a non-monotonic shape in the relationship between the bankruptcy exemptions and the amount of credit to individuals and small businesses, where the optimal level of exemptions should be neither too high nor too low. Since the majority of the states in U.S. do not apply the optimal level, an intervention that brings the exemption level closer to the optimal one can be credit and welfare enhancing.


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