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Bankrupt in AmericaA History of Debtors, Their Creditors, and the Law in the Twentieth Century$
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Mary Eschelbach Hansen and Bradley A. Hansen

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226679563

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226679730.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 25 May 2022

Conclusion and Epilogue

Conclusion and Epilogue

(p.153) Chapter Seven Conclusion and Epilogue
Bankrupt in America

Mary Eschelbach Hansen

Bradley A. Hansen

University of Chicago Press

The conclusion reviews four themes in the evolution of bankruptcy and bankruptcy law. First, long run growth in personal bankruptcy comes from growth in the supply of credit at the extensive margin. Businesses regularly invented new ways to grow through consumer lending, and the relaxation of usury restrictions facilitated riskier loans. Second, state laws governing the collection of debt are key to interpreting geographic and temporal patterns in bankruptcy. The interaction of state collection law and bankruptcy law caused bankruptcy rates to be higher in states with pro-creditor collections. Pro-creditor collection law also magnified the effect of the growth in the credit supply and the effect of recessions on the bankruptcy rate in those states. Third, people matter. A small number of individuals had outsized influence on the history of bankruptcy. Fourth, stories matter. Beliefs about bankruptcy are typically expressed in stories about what brings people to bankruptcy. In some stories, debtors are driven to bankruptcy by unscrupulous creditors or economic crises. In other stories, unscrupulous debtors take advantage of overly generous laws, imposing the cost of their default on others. The direction bankruptcy reform took depended upon which story carried the day.

Keywords:   Bankruptcy rate, Bankruptcy law, Supply of credit, Collection law, Stigma, Strategic bankruptcy

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