October 2005

IZA DP No. 1805: Redistributive Taxation and Personal Bankruptcy in US States

revised version published in: Journal of Law and Economics, 2009, 52 (3), 445-467

Both personal bankruptcy and redistributive taxes can insure households' consumption risk and both vary considerably across US states. We derive sufficient conditions under which more redistributive taxation makes bankruptcy exemptions less attractive both for the intratemporal insurance and for inter-temporal consumption smoothing. Exploiting data variation over time for 18 US states 1980-2003, we find considerable support for our model's predictions: (i) redistributive taxation and bankruptcy exemptions are negatively correlated; (ii) both policies are associated with more equal consumption growth whereas the effect on unsecured household debt is less clear-cut.