This paper studies the optimal determination of bankruptcy exemptions for risk averse borrowers who use unsecured contracts but have the possibility of defaulting. I show that, in a large class of economies, knowledge of four variables is sufficient to determine whether a bankruptcy exemption level is optimal, or should be increased or decreased. These variables are: the sensitivity to the exemption level of the interest rate schedule offered by lenders to borrowers, the borrowers' leverage, the borrowers' bankruptcy probability, and the change in bankrupt borrowers' consumption. An application of the framework to US data suggests that the optimal bankruptcy exemption is higher than the current average bankruptcy exemption, but of the same order of magnitude.
bankruptcy default sufficient statistics unsecured credit general equilibrium with incomplete markets