Misfortune or Misdeed: An Empirical Study of Public Attitudes Towards Personal Bankruptcy

University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 1098-1129, 2017

32 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2017 Last revised: 3 Oct 2017

See all articles by Paul Ali

Paul Ali

University of Melbourne - Law School

Lucinda O'Brien

Melbourne Law School

Ian Ramsay

Melbourne Law School - University of Melbourne

Date Written: July 9, 2017

Abstract

To date, academic and political debates over ‘bankruptcy stigma’ have seldom been based upon empirical evidence. This article outlines the first scholarly empirical study of attitudes to bankruptcy to be carried out in any jurisdiction. Drawing on a survey of 2,000 Australians, it finds that respondents tend to associate bankruptcy with greedy and dishonest corporate businessmen. Yet while the study finds that bankruptcy arouses considerable public disapproval in Australia, it also finds evidence of widespread sympathy for individuals who go bankrupt due to unemployment, illness or other unforeseeable events. These findings illustrate the limitations of the concept of ‘bankruptcy stigma’, with its connotations of unqualified alienation and contempt. The article suggests that the term, ‘shame’, offers a more nuanced account of the way in which bankruptcy commands public sympathy, even as it elicits equally strong feelings of disapproval.

Keywords: bankruptcy, personal insolvency, stigma

Suggested Citation

Ali, Paul and O'Brien, Lucinda and Ramsay, Ian, Misfortune or Misdeed: An Empirical Study of Public Attitudes Towards Personal Bankruptcy (July 9, 2017). University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 1098-1129, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2999470

Paul Ali

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
Australia
+61 3 8344 1088 (Phone)
+61 3 8344 5285 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au

Lucinda O'Brien

Melbourne Law School ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053
Australia

Ian Ramsay (Contact Author)

Melbourne Law School - University of Melbourne ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
Australia
+61 3 8344 5332 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.unimelb.edu.au/about/staff/ian-ramsay

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
89
Abstract Views
418
rank
287,993
PlumX Metrics