Consumer Bankruptcy Pathologies: Comment on Morrison & Uettwiller
173 Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 197 (2017)
6 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2018 Last revised: 9 Aug 2018
Date Written: March 1, 2017
Defining failures and pathologies can be difficult. Finding and fixing them can be even more difficult. This is the main lesson of Morrison and Uettwiller’s essay on Consumer Bankruptcy Pathologies (Morrison and Uettwiller, 2017). The essay is a major contribution to the literature on consumer bankruptcy, not for the new answers it provides, but for the old answers it debunks and the important new questions it raises. The prevailing narrative among academics is that the consumer bankruptcy system is both racially skewed and ineffective and that lawyers are in large part responsible. Morrison and Uettwiller’s study creates significant doubt about this narrative. Their results suggest that the racial pathologies attributed to the bankruptcy system may, in fact, be coming from other sources. The data also suggest that (1) the Chapter 13 system might be an effective mechanism given the dysfunction and pathologies of the larger legal and economic system in which it exists, and (2) Chapter 13 lawyers may be providing services that partially remedy the dysfunction and pathologies of that larger system. But the data are preliminary and noisy at best. As a result, this study does not leave us with strong policy implications. Instead, the authors provide an important agenda for future research.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation