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BROKE: A New Book on Consumer Debt and Bankruptcy

posted by Katie Porter

Just in time for New Year's resolutions on 1) reading more, 2) paring back your own debt, and 3) learning more about consumer bankruptcy to help you do your job (if you are a lawyer, judge, or academic, media, etc), the book, Broke: How Debt Bankrupts the Middle Class was released from Stanford University Press.

BrokeThe book makes extensive use of the 2007 Consumer Bankruptcy Project data, providing statistics, analysis, and commentary on consumer bankruptcy and debt topics. I edited the volume, and chapter contributors are many Credit Slips regulars or guest bloggers--Jacob Hacker, Bob Lawless, Kevin Leicht, Angela Littwin, Deborah Thorne, and Elizabeth Warren--along with other top scholars.

In the next few weeks, the chapter authors will blog here at Credit Slips about the research featured in the book, but to whet your appetite, I've included a table of contents for the book after the break. The book is accessible to lay readers but its scholarly focus provides plenty of data to educate and surprise even bankruptcy experts. Working on the book, I certainly learned a great deal about timely and important topics such as how pro se debtors (those without attorneys) fare in bankruptcy, where families go after they lose their homes to foreclosure, how bankruptcy affects couple's marriages, and the ways that bankrupt households differ in their financial straits from other households of concern such as those with low assets or late payments on debt. Of course I'm biased but I think the book provides the most comprehensive overview of the consumer bankruptcy system since the enactment of the 2005 bankruptcy amendments.

The best part about working on the Broke book was engaging in conversation and debate with this group of top-notch scholars, who bring different perspectives and disciplinary training (economics, housing, law, political science, psychology, and sociology) to the study of consumer debt. I hope you enjoy hearing more about Broke in the coming weeks, and on behalf of all authors, we welcome your comments and feedback.

I would also like to take this occasion to again thank the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Iowa for funding a gathering of scholars to work on the book chapters, and to thank the principal investigators of the 2007 Consumer Bankruptcy Project for allowing use of the data in the book (see Appendix of this paper for a full description of the Project and a list of principal investigators).



Off to order my copy now.

I have reviewed the study and agree it has good points, even though some I may not agree. Also I am certain additional commentaries will be forthcoming. Therefore, I will mention two. First, having participated in the NBRC hearings representing a large national bank, and a reflection of all the written materials then and thereafter, I still recall the great job Brady Williamson did in trying to balance the opposing sides of consumer and creditor opinions. Having the priviledge of listening to both did indeed help me gain, and hopefully others, the need of a fair and balanced law. Secondly, we all should indeed look to the past and a need to balance the system without compromising it and to encourage flexibility without suppressing it.

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