Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Real Estate

First Advisor

Dr Vincent Yao

Second Advisor

Dr Jon Wiley

Third Advisor

Dr Thao Le

Fourth Advisor

Dr Michael Seiler


The paper studies the direct effect of personal financial distress on workers’ productivity and its spillover effects on their customers. Using the real estate brokerage industry as a setting and agents’ bankruptcy filings as a proxy for personal financial distress, we first construct an empirical model that predicts the likelihood of personal financial distress at the individual by year level. After validating the model, we apply the constructed ex ante "financial distress score" to study its effect on agents’ productivity. We find that both listing and sale prices are significantly lower and time on market is much shorter as the financial distress score increases while controlling for agents’ fixed effects and other market and property attributes. These results suggest that financially distressed agents are more motivated to close the deal quickly at a lower price. In addition, we find that the less desirable sales outcomes induced by agents’ financial distress spill over to homeowners’ future buying activities. These owners subsequently buy smaller houses with much higher loan-to-value ratios.


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