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Author:Scholnick, Barry 

Working Paper
Personal Bankruptcy as a Real Option

We provide a novel explanation to the longstanding puzzle of the ?missing bankruptcy ?lings.? Even though a household with a negative net worth will receive contemporaneous bene?t from bankruptcy, there may be greater insurance value from delaying the ?ling. Household bankruptcy is thus an American-style put option, which is not necessarily exercised even if the option is "in the money." Based on the value functions in the household?s dynamic programming problem, we formulate the value of the bankruptcy option as well as the exercise price. We estimate a life-cycle model in which ...
Working Papers , Paper 19-46

Working Paper
Does the Relative Income of Peers Cause Financial Distress? Evidence from Lottery Winners and Neighboring Bankruptcies

SUPERSEDED BY WP 18-22 We examine whether relative income differences among peers can generate financial distress. Using lottery winnings as plausibly exogenous variations in the relative income of peers, we find that the dollar magnitude of a lottery win of one neighbor increases subsequent borrowing and bankruptcies among other neighbors. We also examine which factors may mitigate lenders? bankruptcy risk in these neighborhoods. We show that bankruptcy filers can obtain secured but not unsecured debt, and lenders provide secured credit to low-risk but not high-risk debtors. In addition, we ...
Working Papers , Paper 18-16

Working Paper
How do exogenous shocks cause bankruptcy? Balance sheet and income statement channels

We are the first to examine whether exogenous shocks cause personal bankruptcy through the balance sheet channel and/or the income statement channel. For identification, we examine the effect of exogenous, politically motivated government payments on 200,000 Canadian bankruptcy filings. We find support for the balance sheet channel, in that receipt of the exogenous cash increases the net balance sheet benefits of bankruptcy (unsecured debt discharged minus liquidated assets forgone) required by filers. We also find limited support for the income statement channel, in that exogenous payments ...
Working Papers , Paper 14-17

Working Paper
Peers’ Income and Financial Distress: Evidence from Lottery Winners and Neighboring Bankruptcies

SUPRSEDES WP 18-16 We examine whether relative income differences among peers can generate financial distress. Using lottery winnings as plausibly exogenous variations in the relative income of peers, we find that the dollar magnitude of a lottery win of one neighbor increases subsequent borrowing and bankruptcies among other neighbors. We also examine which factors may mitigate lenders? bankruptcy risk in these neighborhoods. We show that bankruptcy filers obtain more secured but not unsecured debt, and lenders provide additional credit to low-risk but not high-risk debtors. In addition, we ...
Working Papers , Paper 18-22

Working Paper
Does inequality cause financial distress? Evidence from lottery winners and neighboring bankruptcies

Revised Oct 2016. We test the hypothesis that income inequality causes financial distress. To identify the effect of income inequality, we examine lottery prizes of random dollar magnitudes in the context of very small neighborhoods (13 households on average). We find that a C$1,000 increase in the lottery prize causes a 2.4% rise in subsequent bankruptcies among the winners? close neighbors. We also provide evidence of conspicuous consumption as a mechanism for this causal relationship. The size of lottery prizes increases the value of visible assets (houses, cars, motorcycles), but not ...
Working Papers , Paper 16-4

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

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 ...
Working Papers , Paper 16-19

Working Paper
Financial Constraints of Entrepreneurs and the Self-Employed

Growth-oriented entrepreneurial start-ups generate more economic growth than other self-employed businesses, yet they only constitute a small fraction of start-ups. We examine whether financial constraints impede these types of start-ups by exploiting lottery wins as exogenous wealth shocks. We find that lottery-win magnitude increases winners? subsequent incorporation, implying that entrepreneurs face financial constraints, but not business registration, implying that financial constraints do not bind as much for the self-employed. Our results, that financial constraints bind for ...
Working Papers , Paper 19-52

Working Paper
Who is screened out of social insurance programs by entry barriers? Evidence from consumer bankruptcies

Entry barriers into social insurance programs will be effective screening devices if they cause only those individuals receiving higher benefits from a program to participate in that program. We find evidence for this by using plausibly exogenous variations in travel-related entry costs into the Canadian consumer bankruptcy system. Using detailed balance sheet and travel data, we find that higher travel-related entry costs reduce bankruptcies from individuals with lower financial benefits of bankruptcy (unsecured debt discharged, minus secured assets forgone). When compared across filers, ...
Working Papers , Paper 15-40

Working Paper
Spatial Commitment Devices and Addictive Goods: Evidence from the Removal of Slot Machines from Bars

Commitment device theory suggests that temptations to consume addictive goods could be reduced by the regulatory removal of geographically close environmental cues. We provide new evidence on this hypothesis using a quasi-natural experiment, in which gambling regulators removed slot machines from some, but not all, neighborhood bars. We find that the removal of slot machines reduced personal bankruptcies of close neighbors (within 100 meters) but not neighbors slightly farther away. This is consistent with the removal of neighborhood slots serving as an effective spatial commitment device, ...
Working Papers , Paper 17-34

Working Paper
Financial benefits, travel costs, and bankruptcy

We are the first to show that the cost of personal bankruptcy filers traveling to their bankruptcy trustees affects bankruptcy choices. We use detailed balance sheet, income statement, and location data from 400,000 Canadian bankruptcies. To control for endogenous trustee selection, we use the location of local government offices as an instrument for the location of bankruptcy trustees (while filers interact with trustees, and trustees interact with local government, filers do not interact with the local government). We find that increased travel costs reduce the number of filings. ...
Working Papers , Paper 14-18

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