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Vol. 89, No. 1 (Posted 2007-01-01)

The Rise in Personal Bankruptcies: The Eighth Federal Reserve District and Beyond

by Thomas A. Garrett

Personal bankruptcy filings in the United States increased, per capita, nearly 350 percent between 1980 and 2005. This paper first addresses the changes in economic and institutional factors that have occurred over the past 100 years, many of which have occurred in the past 30 years, which are likely contributors to the dramatic rise in personal bankruptcy filings seen across the country. These factors include a reduction in personal savings, an increase in consumer debt, the proliferation of revolving credit, changes to bankruptcy law, and a reduced social stigma associated with filing for bankruptcy. Given the availability of bankruptcy data at various levels of aggregation, the remaining sections of the paper contain results from several different empirical analyses of bankruptcy filings using various data sets. Careful attention is paid to personal bankruptcy filings in counties located in Eighth Federal Reserve District states.

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