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Personal-Bankruptcy Cycles

This paper estimates the dynamics of the personal-bankruptcy rate over the business cycle by exploiting large cross-state variation in recessions and bankruptcies. We find that bankruptcy rates are significantly higher than normal during a recession and rise as a recession persists. After a recession ends, there is a hangover whereby bankruptcy rates begin to fall but remain above normal for several more quarters. Recovery periods see a strong bounce-back effect with bankruptcy rates significantly below normal for several quarters. Despite the significant increases in bankruptcies that occur during recessions, the largest contributor to rising bankruptcies during these periods has tended to be the longstanding upward trend.

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