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As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America Paperback – January 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Beard Books (January 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893122158
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893122154
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,295,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

With the sharp increase in bankruptcies over the past decade and an increasingly wide cross-section of occupational distribution represented, the question treated by this study is both a legal and a sociological one. It does not attempt to study the internal workings of bankruptcy, but the authors look outward to the larger population of bankrupt debtors. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, the authors have drawn social and economic portraits of typical debtors against the backdrop of the law and with hard empirical data.

About the Author


About the Authors:
Teresa A. Sullivan is Professor of Sociology and Law at the University of Texas.
Elizabeth Warren is William A. Schnader Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Pennsylvania.
Jay Lawrence Westbrook is Andrews & Kurth Professor of Law at the University of Texas.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Susan Nunes on May 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
As We Forgive Our Debtors is a result of a landmark study of bankrupt debtors in the 1980s. The authors, three of the leading experts on bankruptcy in the United States, focus on who files for bankruptcy. Contrary to widespread myth, most bankrupts are not irresponsible spendthrifts who could afford to pay their debts. Instead, they cross all income and occupational levels. What they do have in common is they have insurmountable financial problems resulting from crises in their lives, including divorce, job loss, and medical problems.
What is perhaps most disturbing is that single women have been and are increasingly filing for bankruptcy, thanks to their much lower salaries to begin with. It is this group who would suffer most from any kind of so-called bankruptcy reform.
This book, while it is geared for an academic market, is actually highly readable, with copious footnotes at the end of each chapter. The book, while originally published in 1989, is more timely than ever as Congress is considering a fatally flawed bankruptcy reform bill which would be devasting to the vast majority of people filing for bankruptcy but a boon to the credit card industry.
I highly recommend this book and its sequel, The Fragile Middle Class.
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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gregory McMahan VINE VOICE on February 18, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The authors add a lot of substance to the basic tautology that people who are broke declare bankruptcy. Not only do they both acknowledge and recognize this basic tautology, for the first time, in quantitative terms, they define just what it means to be broke. For the authors, merely coming up short at the end of the month does not qualify one as being broke (though most of us wage earning schmucks would tend to disagree). They demonstrate exactly what level of indebtedness generally forces people to seek the protection of the bankruptcy courts. Based on their work, the key metric appears to be the debt to income ratio, and their analysis shows that the bankrupt tend to have debts that exceed their gross annual income, or in quantitative terms, a debt to income ratio greater than one. Finally, they establish a tipping point based on the debt to income ratio that specifies the point in time at which the indebted fall into the abyss of bankruptcy, which appears to be when debts are eight-tenths of a household's most recent full employment annual gross income.

Honestly speaking, although the material presented is dense, and the text is top-heavy with citations, footnotes and whatnot, the book still reads well. The authors manage to provide a comprehensive treatment of the topic without sacrificing readability. The reader learns about the history and function of US bankruptcy, the various debtors in bankruptcy and also gleans a fair bit of knowledge about creditors in bankruptcy. One slight improvement to the text would have been a summary chapter for the time pressed which could have highlighted the major findings of the study. Otherwise, the authors succeeded admirably in contributing something of value to the bankruptcy literature and to general scholarship.
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful By 10ashus on August 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, this book has no credibility. The authors were accused of scientific misconduct by peers in academia. "Professor Shuchman concluded his book review with this powerful allegation: This book contains so much exaggeration, so many questionable ploys, and so many incorrect statements that it would be well to check the accuracy of their raw data, as old as it is. But the authors arranged matters so that they could not provide access to the computer printouts by case, with the corresponding bankruptcy court file numbers, this preventing any independent check of the raw data in the files from which they took their information. In the footnote to this paragraph, Shuchman notes: A common instance of misconduct in science occurs when 'there [is] no way to verify whether or not [the] research was accurate.' Woolf, Deception in Scientific Research, 29 Jurimetrics J. 67, 83 table 5 n.4 (1988).

The author is the same one who claimed to be an American Indian to burnish her resume at Harvard. Delusional.
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8 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Richard Dee Winmill on June 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
Some questions have been raised about this books veracity. At the very least readers ought to know about concerns about the books integrity.
"In 1990, Rutgers Professor Philip Shuchman charged Elizabeth Warren, along with Teresa A. Sullivan, the President of University of Virginia who resigned unexpectedly yesterday, and Jay Westbrook, her two co-authors of the 1989 book, As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America, with "scientific misconduct."
But the central charge made by Professor Shuchman was neither investigated nor refuted. He cited four specific criticisms of the 1989 book. It is the fourth and last complaint upon which charges of scientific misconduct hang.
Professor Shuchman concluded his book review with this powerful allegation:
'This book contains so much exaggeration, so many questionable ploys, and so many incorrect statements that it would be well to check the accuracy of their raw data, as old as it is. But the authors arranged matters so that they could not provide access to the computer printouts by case, with the corresponding bankruptcy court file numbers, this preventing any independent check of the raw data in the files from which they took their information.'
In the footnote to this paragraph, Shuchman notes:
A common instance of misconduct in science occurs when "there [is] no way to verify whether or not [the] research was accurate.' Woolf, Deception in Scientific Research, 29 Jurimetrics J. 67, 83 table 5 n.4 (1988).
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