The Problem of Default, Part I

44 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2015  

D. James Greiner

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Andrea Matthews

Harvard Law School

Date Written: June 21, 2015

Abstract

Routine default threatens the foundations of the United States court system. We study the problem of routine default by human defendants, using the Boston Municipal Court’s debt collection docket as our laboratory. Arbitraging various non-law literatures, we designed interventions consisting of two forms of mailings. We study the effectiveness of our two mailings in a randomized control trial that includes a no-intervention control group. We find no difference in effectiveness as between our two mailings, but that both roughly double the rate at which defendants participate in their lawsuits. Results are statistically significant. We discuss implications of our findings.

Keywords: Default, access to justice, randomized experiment, adult education

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Greiner, D. James and Matthews, Andrea, The Problem of Default, Part I (June 21, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2622140 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2622140

Daniel James Greiner (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession ( email )

1585 Massachusetts Avenue
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5018
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 496-4643 (Phone)

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Andrea Matthews

Harvard Law School ( email )

1557 Massachusetts Ave
6 Ever
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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