Study: Bankruptcy Considered or Filed by One in Eight Americans

A study recently published by the web site Find Law indicates that a considerable percentage of the U.S. population (one in eight survey respondents, or nearly 13 percent) has either considered filing for bankruptcy or actually done so.

That figure may seem high, but in a nation of consumer debt, depreciating home values and a limited job market, perhaps it’s no wonder that so many of us are in need of serious the serious financial protection and debt relief that bankruptcy can offer.

Who Is Considering Bankruptcy?

The study breaks down potential bankruptcy filers in part by age:

  • Americans between 35 and 54 are reportedly the group most likely to consider bankruptcy as an option.
  • Americans 18 – 34 and 55 and older are, according to sources, half as likely as the middle age group to consider or actually file for bankruptcy.
  • Senior citizens (those 65 and older) are apparently the least likely group to consider bankruptcy as a debt relief option, at only seven percent.

How Have Bankruptcy Filing Numbers Changed in Recent Years?

Sources indicate that in 2010, 1.5 million Americans actually filed for bankruptcy protection. This number marks the highest annual total since 2005, when the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) took effect and tightened the standards for those interested in bankruptcy protection.

Why Do So Many People Need Bankruptcy Protection?

While no two bankruptcy cases are alike, bankruptcy filers often note common triggers that led them to seek the protection of the bankruptcy court. These include:

  • Unexpected medical expenses: Illness and injury can both cause serious medical bills to build up, particularly for those people who are uninsured or underinsured. And even an otherwise happy event, like the birth of a child, can prove very expensive.
  • Change in family makeup: Divorce and death are difficult to deal with on their own, but are often compounded by the financial troubles they cause. Many families are forced to face unpleasant financial realities after divorce or death carries off a primary breadwinner.
  • Job loss or reduction: Even good employees are at risk of losing their jobs in the current economic climate, and even though layoffs have slowed in recent months, the unemployment rate remains high. It’s no secret that this type of financial burden can lead a household to seek bankruptcy protection.
  • Fear of foreclosure: Even those with good health and steady jobs may find themselves unable to keep up with their mortgage, and some families opt to file for bankruptcy in hopes of fending off mortgage foreclosure.

Considering the many factors that can contribute to a household’s decision to file for bankruptcy protection, it may be a wonder that only one in eight Americans has thought about personal bankruptcy!

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