The elderly are the population most likely to file for bankruptcy, with filings increasing by 150 percent from 1991 to 2007. This is likely because they live with relatively flat incomes and high medical expenses, and their retirement and housing assets are typically exempt from bankruptcy filings. In addition, nine states adopted higher asset exemptions specifically for the elderly. Using the Health and Retirement Study and recent state-by-time variation in homestead exemptions, we are the first to test whether the benefits of partial wealth insurance or the cost of supply-side credit constraints are predominant for the elderly. Using pooled cross-sectional analysis, we find that an increase in a state’s homestead exemption increases the elderly’s home equity and business ownership; however, the credit constraint is dominant in unlimited-exemption states, which decreases home and business ownership. Panel analysis reveals that an increase in the homestead exemption positively affects home ownership rates and home equity.
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The Journal of Law & Economics
The Journal of Law and Economics is an academic journal published by the University of Chicago Press. It publishes articles on the economic analysis of regulation and the behavior of regulated firms, the political economy of legislation and legislative processes, law and finance, corporate finance and governance, and industrial organization. The journal is sponsored by the University of Chicago Law School.