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Who Files for Personal Bankruptcy in the United States?

Jonathan Fisher

Working Papers from U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies

Abstract: Who files for bankruptcy in the United States is not well understood. Previous research relied on small samples from national surveys or a small number of states from administrative records. I use over 10 million administrative bankruptcy records linked to the 2000 Decennial Census and the 2001-2009 American Community Surveys to understand who files for personal bankruptcy. Bankruptcy filers are middle income, more likely to be divorced, more likely to be black, more likely to have terminal high school degree or some college, and more likely to be middle-aged. Bankruptcy filers are more likely to be employed than the U.S. as a whole, and they are more likely to be employed 50-52 weeks. The bankruptcy population is aging faster than the U.S. population as a whole. Lastly, using the 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 then rises after bankruptcy.

Date: 2017-01
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