Driven by Debt: Bankruptcy and Financial Failure in American Families
BROKE: HOW DEBT BANKRUPTS THE MIDDLE CLASS, Introductory Chapter, Katherine Porter, ed., Stanford University Press, 2012
Posted: 30 Jan 2012 Last revised: 2 Jun 2012
Date Written: January 30, 2012
The introductory chapter to the book, Broke: How Debt Bankrupts the Middle Class (Stanford University Press, 2012 (ed. Katherine Porter), puts the problem of financial distress in American families in context. It documents the rise in consumer debt that has left today’s families with debt burdens that would have been unthinkable a mere generation ago. It argues that debt has become one of the most common shared qualities of middle-class Americans and briefly describes the chapters in Broke that explore the problems facing overindebted families. The book examines the demographic and financial characteristics of people in bankruptcy, the decisions that contributed to their debt problems, the consequences of being in financial distress, the functioning of the bankruptcy system as a solution to overwhelming debt, and the way in which debt loads can erode families’ aspirations of achieving middle-class prosperity.
The introduction explains the strengths of using bankruptcy as a lens for studying financial distress and contains a short primer on consumer bankruptcy for non-lawyers. The chapter also provides a brief description of the 2007 Consumer Bankruptcy Project, the source of the data used in the chapters in Broke and many scholarly articles.
Keywords: bankruptcy, consumer bankruptcy, financial distress, consumer debt
JEL Classification: D12, D14, D78, I38, K35
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation