2017-03-09 - We exploit state-level changes in the amount of personal wealth individuals can protect under Chapter 7 to analyze the effect of debtor protection on the financing structure and performance of a representative panel of U.S start-ups. The effect of increasing debtor protection depends on the entrepreneur’s level of wealth. Firms owned by mid-wealth entrepreneurs whose assets become fully protected suffer a reduction in credit availability, employment, operating efficiency, and survival rates. We find no such negative effects for low-wealth and high-wealth owners. Our results are consistent with theories that predict that asset protection in bankruptcy leads to a redistribution of credit.