The Bright Side of Bapcpa
26 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2006
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) raised numerous provocative issues for the bankruptcy system. Many of these problems are fundamentally empirical research problems and will engage scholars for years to come. BAPCPA does not just create questions, however. The law itself actually seeks to provide answers. BAPCPA contains several explicit provisions about statistics and studies, and the law's emphasis on disclosure implicitly increases the amount of data about people and businesses in financial trouble. The central place of empirical research in BAPCPA reflects the importance of data in modern policymaking. Indeed, much of the bankruptcy reform debate was a battle of numbers. By including research mandates in the new law, Congress articulated an empirical research agenda about bankruptcy for the federal government.
I assert that BAPCPA provides both opportunities and hazards to advance our understanding of bankruptcy. The development of comprehensive federal data offers the potential to dramatically increase the scope of knowledge about the bankruptcy system. The peril lies in the government conducting its research without the transparency and accountability necessary to convince private industry, academic scholars, and the general public of the integrity and usefulness of these data. Rather than eclipsing academic research, the federal government's bold new foray into empirical bankruptcy work challenges the scholarly community to engage with government and private industry to ensure the collective improvement of bankruptcy knowledge. The result of BAPCPA could be a new universe of bankruptcy data that offers everyone a better understanding of how bankruptcy functions.
Keywords: bankruptcy, empirical research, government data, bapcpa
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