22 Emory Bankr. Dev. J. 481 (2005-2006)
Bankruptcy Stigma: Plausible Causes for Shifting Norms

handle is hein.journals/bnkd22 and id is 487 raw text is: BANKRUPTCY STIGMA:
Rafael Efrat*
Traditionally, American    society  has viewed     bankruptcy   petitioners
negatively. By the 1960s, a number of critics began to voice concerns about
the dramatic rise in consumer bankruptcy filings in the United States. The
critics predominantly attributed the increase in filing to an alleged decline in
morals and shame associated with bankruptcy. Charges of fading bankruptcy
stigma have recently intensified. A number of recent studies have attempted to
correlate assertions of declining stigma in bankruptcy using indirect variables
as proxies. These various attempts to measure bankruptcy stigma have been
roundly criticized. The disapproval mainly centers on the studies' failure to
directly measure changes in public perception about bankruptcy. A recent
study attempted to measure evolving public perception about bankruptcy by
examining public sentiments. The public's perception was measured by
examining sentiments as manifested through newspaper articles published on
the subject over the last 140 years. That study detected a noticeable shift,
beginning in the 1960s, in public attitudes towards individuals filing personal
This Article aims to identify some of the plausible reasons for the evolving
public attitudes in the United States relating to personal bankruptcy. By
shifting attribution of fault away from the financially troubled individual,
American society may have developed a more positive attitude towards the
individual that was manifested by less anger and more sympathy with the
plight of the individual. Evolving attribution of fault for financial failure may
* Associate Professor, College of Business & Economics, California State University, Northridge.
J.S.D., 2002, Stanford Law School; J.S.M., 1998, Stanford Law School; J.D., 1992, University of Southern
California Law Center. The author owes special thanks for valuable comments on earlier drafts from Professor
Emeritus William Whitford at the University of Wisconsin Law School, Professor Todd J. Zywicki at George
Mason University School of Law, as well as the participants in the Celga Center Conference on Personal
Bankruptcy in 21st Century: Emerging Trends and New Challenges, held at Tel Aviv University School of
Law, June 5-8, 2005.

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