Bankruptcy in America is a booming business. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans each year have joined giant corporations, like Johns Manville and Continental Airlines, and once-wealthy individuals, like John Connally, in filing for bankruptcy. Is this dramatic growth a result of mushrooming debt--consumer debt and consumer bankruptcy have both more than doubled since the late 1970s--or does it reflect a moreal decline that permits the middle class to evade their debts? As We Forgive Our Debtors addresses these questions with the data gathered in the largest empirical study of consumer bankruptcy ever done in this country. The authors of this mulit-disciplinary study describe the law and the statistics in clear, nontechnical language, combining a thorough statistical description of the social and economic position of consumer bankrupts with human portraits of the debtors and creditors whose journey has ended in bankruptcy court.
In addition to an overall picture of bankruptcy, As We Forgive Our Debtors devotes several chapters to hidden subgroups in bankruptcy. One focuses on women, analyzing the desperate financial circumstances of single women and the increasing pressure on one-income families. Another reveals that more than half of the bankrupts are homeowners and discusses the anomalies in the way they are treated by current law. Other chapters examine the surprising role of medical debts in financial collapse and give a new account of the financial pressures on small businesses. The book also provides the first detailed analysis ever done of the position of various types of creditors whose debtors go bankrupt. This book is destined to become a standard reference for sociologists who study wealth and income and for every credit manager in America. It will also bring to the legal and political debates about bankruptcy law hard facts that will help legal scholars in many fields to measure the distance between armchair theorizing and the law in action.