A five year study of the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act conducted by The Institute For Financial Literacy paints a picture of who files bankruptcy, and why.
- Women file bankruptcy more than men, by about 52 to 48 per cent, but the gap narrows with an increasing percent of men filing each year.
- The older you are the more likely you will file bankruptcy. Almost 56 percent of filers were between the ages of 35 and 54. More people older than 54 file bankruptcy than people younger than 35.
- Almost 72 per cent are Caucasian; over 11 per cent are African American; and Hispanics make up the third highest filing ethnicity with almost 9 per cent.
- While over 36 per cent of bankruptcy filers attained a High School diploma or GED, the number with College degrees and Graduate Level degrees steadily increased over the years. In fact, college level attendees and higher make up over 57 per cent of filers, while less than 6 per cent of filers did not attain a High School diploma or GED.
- People earning less than $20,000 annually make up the bulk of filers, at 38 percent, but that number is declining. The next higher group, at 21 per cent, is the $20,000-30,000 income level, also a declining number. Likewise, the third highest filing group earned $30,000-$40,000 and also shows a decreasing per cent of overall filers. Remarkably, the highest income category of those making over $60,000 almost doubled to 9 per cent over the five years studied.
- Almost 70 per cent were employed and less than 17 per cent were unemployed, with the rest out of the job market as being retired, homemakers or students.
- Over 64 per cent were married and less than 15 per cent of unmarried filers were divorced.
Just what causes people to file bankruptcy? Frequently it's due to job loss, medical bills or divorce. This study asked debtors to identify factors that affected their situation and most people chose being overextended on credit, a loss of income, unexpected expenses, job loss, illness and divorce, in that declining order.
Who files bankruptcy? Looks like any average American from just about any demographic group.
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