88 research outputs found

    Uncertainty and the Specificity of Human Capital

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    This paper studies the choice between general and specific human capital. A trade-off arises because general human capital, while less productive, can easily be reallocated across firms. Accordingly, the fraction of individuals with specific human capital depends on the amount of uncertainty in the economy. Our model implies that while economies with more specific human capital tend to be more productive, they also tend to be more vulnerable to turbulence. As such, our theory sheds some light on the experience of Japan, where human capital is notoriously specific: while Japan benefited from this predominately specific labor force in tranquil times, this specificity may also have been at the heart of its prolonged stagnation.Economic Models

    Consumer bankruptcy: a fresh start

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    American consumer bankruptcy provides for a Fresh Start through the discharge of a household’s debt. Until recently, many European countries specified a No Fresh Start policy of life-long liability for debt. The trade-off between these two policies is that while Fresh Start provides insurance across states, it drives up interest rates and thereby makes life-cycle smoothing more difficult. This paper quantitatively compares these bankruptcy rules using a life-cycle model with incomplete markets calibrated to the U.S. and Germany. A key innovation is that households face idiosyncratic uncertainty about their net asset holdings (expense shocks) and labor income. We find that expense uncertainty plays a key role in evaluating consumer bankruptcy laws.

    Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies

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    Personal bankruptcies in the United States have increased dramatically, rising from 1.4 per thousand working age population in 1970 to 8.5 in 2002. We use a heterogeneous agent life-cycle model with competitive financial intermediaries who can observe households' earnings, age and current asset holdings to evaluate several commonly offered explanations. We find that increased uncertainty (income shocks, expense uncertainty) cannot quantitatively account for the rise in bankruptcies. Instead, the rise in filings appears to mainly reflect changes in the credit market environment. We find that credit market innovations which cause a decrease in the transactions cost of lending and a decline in the cost of bankruptcy can largely accounting for the rise in consumer bankruptcy. We also argue that the abolition of usury laws and other legal changes are unimportant.

    Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies

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    Personal bankruptcies in the United States have increased dramatically, rising from 1.4 per thousand working age population in 1970 to 8.5 in 2002. We use a heterogeneous agent life-cycle model with competitive financial intermediaries who can observe households’ earnings, age and current asset holdings to evaluate several commonly offered explanations. We find that increased uncertainty (income shocks, expense uncertainty) cannot quantitatively account for the rise in bankruptcies. Instead, stories related to a change in the credit market environment are more plausible. In particular, we find that a combination of a decrease in the transactions cost of lending and a decline in the cost of bankruptcy does a good job in accounting for the rise in consumer bankruptcy. We also argue that the abolition of usury laws and other legal changes are unimportant.Consumer Bankruptcy, Uncertainty, Credit Markets, Stigma

    Uncertainty and the specificity of human capital

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    This paper studies the choice between general and specific human capital. A trade-off arises because general human capital, while less productive, can easily be reallocated across firms. Accordingly, the fraction of individuals with specific human capital depends on the amount of uncertainty in the economy. Our model implies that while economies with more specific human capital tend to be more productive, they also tend to be more vulnerable to turbulence. As such, our theory sheds some light on the experience of Japan, where human capital is notoriously specific: while Japan benefited from this predominately specific labor force in tranquil times, this specificity may also have been at the heart of its prolonged stagnation. Keywords; uncertainty, labor contracts, specific human capital

    The democratization of credit and the rise in consumer bankruptcies

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    Financial innovations are a common explanation for the rise in credit card debt and bankruptcies. To evaluate this story, we develop a simple model that incorporates two key frictions: asymmetric information about borrowers’ risk of default and a fixed cost of developing each contract lenders offer. Innovations that ameliorate asymmetric information or reduce this fixed cost have large extensive margin effects via the entry of new lending contracts targeted at riskier borrowers. This results in more defaults and borrowing, and increased dispersion of interest rates. Using the Survey of Consumer Finances and Federal Reserve Board interest rate data, we find evidence supporting these predictions. Specifically, the dispersion of credit card interest rates nearly tripled while the “new” cardholders of the late 1980s and 1990s had riskier observable characteristics than existing cardholders. Our calculation suggest these new cardholders accounted for over 25% of the rise in bank credit card debt and delinquencies between 1989 and 1998

    2006-6 Accounting for the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies

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    2008-7 Barriers to Technology Adoption and Entry

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    Consumer credit with over-optimistic borrowers

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    We quantitatively analyze consumer credit markets with behavioral consumersand default. Our model incorporates over-optimistic and rational borrower typesinto a standard incomplete markets with consumer bankruptcy framework. Lendersprice credit endogenously, forming beliefs – type scores – about borrowers’ types.Since over-optimistic borrowers incorrectly believe they have rational beliefs, lendersdo not need to take strategic behavior into account when updating type scores. Wefind that the partial pooling of over-optimistic with rational borrowers results inspill-overs across types via interest rates, with over-optimists being cross-subsidizedby rational consumers who have lower default rates. Higher interest rates lower theaverage debt level of realists compared to a world without over-optimists. Due tooverestimating their ability to repay, over-optimists borrow too much. We evaluatethree policies to address these frictions: reducing the cost of default, educating over-optimists about their true type, and increasing borrowing cost. Of the three, onlythe lower default costs improve the welfare of over-optimists. However, rationalconsumers are made worse off by that policy
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