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Who Files for Personal Bankruptcy in the United States?

Jonathan Fisher

Journal of Consumer Affairs, 2019, vol. 53, issue 4, 2003-2026

Abstract: Who files for bankruptcy in the United States is not well understood. Previous research relied on small samples from surveys or a small number of states from administrative records. Using over ten million administrative bankruptcy records linked to the 2000 Decennial Census and the 2001–2009 American Community Surveys, I document who files for bankruptcy. Compared to the US population, bankruptcy filers are middle income, more likely to be divorced, more likely to be black, more likely to be veterans, less likely to be immigrants, and more likely to have a high school degree or some college. Filers are more likely to be employed. The bankruptcy population is aging faster than the US population as a whole. Lastly, using pseudo‐panels I study what happens in the years around bankruptcy. Individuals are likely to get divorced in the years before bankruptcy and then remarry. Income falls before bankruptcy and rises after bankruptcy.

Date: 2019
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