Household Borrowing after Personal Bankruptcy

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  • 1. Finance and Economics Discussion SeriesDivisions of Research & Statistics and Monetary Aairs Federal Reserve Board, Washington, D.C.Household Borrowing after Personal Bankruptcy Song Han and Geng Li 2009-17 NOTE: Sta working papers in the Finance and Economics Discussion Series (FEDS) are preliminary materials circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comment. The analysis and conclusions set forth are those of the authors and do not indicate concurrence by other members of the research sta or the Board of Governors. References in publications to the Finance and Economics Discussion Series (other than acknowledgement) should be cleared with the author(s) to protect the tentative character of these papers.

2. Household Borrowing after Personal BankruptcySong Han Geng LiFederal Reserve BoardFederal Reserve BoardMarch 26, 2009 AbstractA large literature has examined factors leading to ling for personal bankruptcy,but little is known about household borrowing after bankruptcy. Using data from theSurvey of Consumer Finances, we nd that relative to comparable nonlers, bankruptcylers generally have more limited access to unsecured credit but borrow more secureddebt post bankruptcy, and they pay higher interest rates on all types of debt. Wealso nd that credit access and borrowing costs improve as more time passed sinceling. However, lers experience renewed debt payment diculties and accumulate lesswealth, even many years after ling, suggesting that for many bankrupt households,debt discharges fail to generate an eective fresh start as intended by the law. Ourestimate also provides empirical guidance for calibrating the equilibrium models ofhousehold credit. JEL Classications: J22, K35 Key words: Personal bankruptcy, credit constraints, household nance The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reect the views of the Board of Governors or the sta of the Federal Reserve System. We thank Karen E. Dynan, Johnathan Fisher, Elizabeth R. Perlman, and seminar participants at the Federal Reserve Board for their helpful comments.Capital Markets Section, Federal Reserve Board, Mail Stop 89, Washington, DC 20551 USA. E-mail: Song.Han@frb.gov; phone: 202-736-1971; fax: 202-728-5887.Household and Real Estate Finance Section, Federal Reserve Board, Mail Stop 93, Washington, DC 20551 USA. E-mail: Geng.Li@frb.gov; phone: 202-452-2995; fax: 202-728-5887. 3. Household Borrowing after Personal BankruptcyAbstractA large literature has examined factors leading to ling for personal bankruptcy,but little is known about household borrowing after bankruptcy. Using data from theSurvey of Consumer Finances, we nd that relative to comparable nonlers, bankruptcylers generally have more limited access to unsecured credit but borrow more secureddebt post bankruptcy, and they pay higher interest rates on all types of debt. Wealso nd that credit access and borrowing costs improve as more time passed sinceling. However, lers experience renewed debt payment diculties and accumulate lesswealth, even many years after ling, suggesting that for many bankrupt households,debt discharges fail to generate an eective fresh start as intended by the law. Ourestimate also provides empirical guidance for calibrating the equilibrium models ofhousehold credit. JEL Classications: J22, K35 Key words: Personal bankruptcy, credit constraints, household nance 4. 1 IntroductionA cornerstone of the U.S. consumer credit markets is the personal bankruptcy law, whichaims to provide a fresh start to distressed debtors through debt discharge.1 Amid the fast growth of consumer credit in the past two decades, the number of households that have sought bankruptcy protection has also increased dramatically in the United States, with theannual rate of personal bankruptcy lings rising from 3.6 lings per thousand households in 1980 to nearly 14 in 2004. Such a rapid rise has motivated an extensive literature searchingfor the causes of personal bankruptcy ling. Most of the existing literature, however, fo- cuses squarely on the prepetition conditions and nancial market evolutions and pays littleattention to household nancial conditions post bankruptcy. This is somewhat surprising because what happens to postbankruptcy borrowing should aect the ling decision in the rst place. In addition, studying postbankruptcy nancial well being is critical to evaluatingthe eectiveness of the law. Moreover, with little empirical evidence documented as guid- ance, the existing dynamic equilibrium models with bankruptcy features may not have beenrealistically calibrated. In this paper, we seek to address this void by providing a comprehensive analysis on house-hold borrowing after personal bankruptcy ling. Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), we examine the dierences in the use of credit between those households who have ever led for bankruptcy and those who have never led, hereafter lers andnonlers, respectively. In addition, we study how the eects of bankruptcy ling vary with time passed since the last ling, hereafter time since ling. Specically, for eachof the three major debt categoriescredit card debt, rst lien home mortgages, and vehicle loanswe try to answer the following questions: Is it less likely for lers to take on such debtthan comparable nonlers? Conditional on having the access, do lers borrow less or pay a 1 The best-known elaboration of the fresh start idea is by the U.S. Supreme Court in its inuential ruling in Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 234 (1934), which stated that the bankruptcy discharge gives to the honest but unfortunate debtor...a new opportunity in life and a clear eld for future eort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of pre-existing debt. 1 5. higher interest rate? Are lers more likely to experience renewed debt payment diculties?How do these eects change with the staleness and the removal of a bankruptcy record from credit reports? We nd that without controlling for time since ling, lers generally have less access to unsecured revolving credit than comparable nonlers but borrow more on mortgages and vehicle loans. Relative to comparable nonlers, an average ler is about 50 percent less likelyto obtain a credit card and, conditional on having a card, has a credit limit that is almost $8000 lower. In contrast, lers have a similar likelihood of obtaining a mortgage, and theirmortgages have only slightly higher loan-to-value ratios at the origination. Filers are also 28 percent more likely to obtain a vehicle loan, but they have similar size of loans relativeto their income. Finally, lers generally pay signicantly higher interest rates on all three types of loans than comparable nonlers.The eects of bankruptcy ling also depend on whether the bankruptcy ling recordappears on credit reports. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that credit bureaus remove a bankruptcy record from credit reports ten years after a ling. We nd that, forhouseholds who led for bankruptcy fewer than nine years previouslythose whose ling records remain on their credit reportsthe eects of ling on credit card debt and vehicleloans are similar to the general results stated above, but the eects on rst lien mortgages vary considerably with time since ling. Relative to comparable nonlers, households who led more than nine years earlierthose whose ling records no longer appear on their creditreportshave similar or higher likelihood of having each of the three types of loans, carry higher balances or leverages, but do not necessarily pay higher interest rates. Despite the reduced form nature of our estimations, we attempt to infer through which channel, demand or supply of credit, the bankruptcy ling aects postbankruptcy borrowing.We make such inference based on the joint predictions of standard price theory on the changes in both equilibrium debt quantity and interest rate. This approach allows us to make the following claims: First, households who led for bankruptcy fewer than nine years earlier face2 6. a lower supply of credit card credit than comparable nonlers, but they have stronger demandfor vehicle loans. Second, relative to comparable nonlers, households who led more than nine years earlier have stronger demand for all three types of credit. This stronger demandis possibly due to the fact that lers may have deliberately deferred their loan requests until the tenth anniversary, because after that they can get better deals when their credit scores articially improved with the removal of the bankruptcy ag. Our analysis also reveals that lers continued to experience debt payment diculties and accumulate less wealth post bankruptcy. Relative to comparable nonlers, lers are generallyabout 30 percent more likely to have fallen behind on their debt payment schedules, and they have substantially lower net worth, even many years after their last lings. The persistentnancial distress and low wealth accumulation among lers suggest that, for many bankrupt households, debt discharge fails to generate an eective fresh start as intended by the law.This paper contributes to three strands of literature. First, our comprehensive analysisextends signicantly the limited studies on household borrowing and nancial well being post bankruptcy. Previous studies suggest that households may still be able to borrow, inpart because advances informational technology and nancial innovations allow lenders to better screen, monitor, and price loans. Our analysis goes beyond these studies by providingquantitative evidence on both quantity and prices of postbankruptcy borrowing in major consumer debt categories. Second, our ndings provide a benchmark for the calibration of theoretical models of personal bankruptcy and credit constraints. In recent years, a grow-ing literature has used dynamic equilibrium models to study various positive and normative aspects of personal bankruptcy. With little empirical guidance from the