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27 J. Legal Stud. 187 (1998)


This article offers new evidence on the determinants of U.S. consumer bankruptcy filing rates, which tripled from 1984 to 1991. The run-up in filing rates does not appear to be a consequence of legal changes since the increase coincided with Bankruptcy Code amendments designed to reduce filing rates by rejecting opportunistic petitions. The run-up also coincided with a major economic boom and crested with the 1991 recession. However, much of the variation in district filing rates is attributable to differences in social variables, and we suggest that changes in social norms might account for the increased bankruptcy filings. This article is therefore a contribution to social capital explanations of behavior.


Reprinted with permission of the Journal of Legal Studies.



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