47 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2012 Last revised: 8 May 2015
Date Written: March 7, 2014
Reforms made to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in 2005 instituted a new means testing requirement that restricts the discharge of unsecured debt under Chapter 7 to filers with income below their state's median, thereby forcing filers with income above their state's median into a costly Chapter 13 repayment plan. We construct a quantitative equilibrium model of the mortgage and unsecured credit markets to assess the impact of this reform on the severity of the housing crisis during the Great Recession. We find that while this reform increased the relative attractiveness of mortgage default, its impact on the housing market during the crisis was largely mitigated by general equilibrium effects on mortgage lending standards. Allowing bankruptcy judges to reduce mortgage principal for underwater homeowners through a policy of cramdown would have had only a small impact on the mortgage default rate during the crisis.
Keywords: Bankruptcy, Mortgage Default, Foreclosures, Housing Crisis, BAPCPA
JEL Classification: K35, E44, G21, R21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation