Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland have weighed in on the long-running debate over whether to let bankruptcy judges modify home mortgages, saying evidence suggests the strategy helped stem farm foreclosures in the 1980s.

During that crisis, which the economists Thomas J. Fitzpatrick 4th and James B. Thomson called "a typical boom-bust scenario," farmers faced a predicament similar to that facing many homeowners today: the outstanding balance on their mortgages exceeded the current market value of their property.

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