2009 Annual Consumer Bankruptcy Demographics Report: American Debtors in the Great Recession

18 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2010

Date Written: June 25, 2010


According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the United States officially entered a recession in December of 2007. The NBER’s Business Cycle Dating Committee maintains a chronology of the U.S. business cycle. At a meeting on April 8, 2010 NBER reviewed the most recent data to determine the possible end of the recession. The committee concluded that, although there were indications of expansion in the economy, they were both preliminary and premature and that the recession had not yet ended. It also reconfirmed that the recession began in December of 2007.

This year’s Annual Consumer Bankruptcy Demographics Report is the second year of research to capture information on American debtors filing bankruptcy during this recession (January 2009 through December 2009). While the data presented in this report does not lend itself to drawing final conclusions about any topic or issue, the 2009 data is compared with 2008 data to identify any changes in the demographics of debtors that may be attributable to the recession. These two years show 24 months of Americans filing bankruptcy during what has come to be known as the “Great Recession.” This allows us to see what impact an economic cycle has on the bankruptcy process.

As in years past, the average American in financial distress and seeking credit counseling and financial education is a 35- to 54-year-old married Caucasian with a high school degree or some college who is employed and earning less than $30,000 per year. What differentiates the 2009 data from previous years' data is the increase in reported percentages of Americans 55 and older, Americans of Caucasian and Asian descent, Americans with bachelor’s or graduate degrees and Americans earning $60,000 or more per year.Taken collectively, these individually measured demographic factors indicate that the 2008-2009 Great Recession is noticeably shifting more “middle class” Americans into bankruptcy.

Keywords: consumer bankruptcy, bankruptcy, Great Recession, recession, unemployment, bankrupt, consumer

Suggested Citation

Linfield, Leslie E., 2009 Annual Consumer Bankruptcy Demographics Report: American Debtors in the Great Recession (June 25, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1630501 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1630501

Leslie E. Linfield (Contact Author)

Institute for Financial Literacy ( email )

260 Western Ave., Suite 1
Sourth Portland, ME 04106
United States

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