Working Paper

The Causes of Household Bankruptcy: The Interaction of Income Shocks and Balance Sheets


Abstract: We examine how household balance sheets and income statements interact to affect bankruptcy decisions following an exogenous income shock. For identification, we exploit government payments in one but not any other Canadian province that varied exogenously based on family size. Receiving a larger income shock from the payment (relative to household income) reduces the count of bankruptcies, with fewer remaining filers having higher net balance sheet benefits of bankruptcy (unsecured debt discharged minus liquidated assets forgone). Receiving an income shock thus causes households that would receive lower net balance sheet benefits under bankruptcy law to select out of bankruptcy.

Keywords: Household Bankruptcy; Income Shocks; Balance Sheet;

JEL Classification: D41; H31;

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Part of Series: Working Papers

Publication Date: 2016-07-15

Number: 16-19

Pages: 38 pages