Geographic Filing Trends (Bankruptcy By The Numbers - ABI Journal April 1999)

Geographic Filing Trends

Contributing Editor:
Ed Flynn
Executive Office for U.S. Trustees
1

Total bankruptcy filings have increased by about 73 percent over the last four years. Unlike prior periods when bankruptcies increased, there has been little geographic pattern to the most recent increase.

For example, between 1987 and 1992 the bankruptcy courts experienced a period of increased filings comparable to what has occurred during the last four years. Nationwide, filings were up by 69 percent, but there were strong regional differences. This is illustrated by separating filing trends within the nine divisions as used by the Census Bureau.

Filings were up 383 percent in the New England division, and filings in other states along the east coast more than doubled. During the same period, filings in the mountain states were up by only about one-third, and the West South Central division had an increase of less than 20 percent.

The geographic pattern of filing trends largely disappeared after 1992. Between 1992 and 1994, bankruptcy filings decreased by about 15 percent nationwide. During this period, each of the nine Census divisions had a decrease of between 10 and 20 percent.

For the past four years, filings have risen by 73 percent nationwide. Unlike the 1987-1992 period, there has been relatively little geographic variability in this most recent increase. Bankruptcy filings in each of the nine divisions have increased between 54 and 88 percent during this time—a much narrower range than existed during the 1987-1992 period. Of course, there is still considerable variation in filing trends within the Census divisions. The most notable exception during the last four years has been Hawaii, where filings have increased by 264 percent since 1994.

Economic downturns do not equally affect all regions of the country. The recession of 1991 had its greatest impact in New England. The U.S. economy has been quite healthy since 1992—around the time that the geographic pattern of bankruptcy filing trends disappeared. The rather uniform rate of increase for the past four years is probably the result of various national phenomena, such as the expanded use of credit cards and the movement toward a cashless society. If differences arise in regional economic conditions, they likely will again be reflected in regional bankruptcy filing patterns.

Percent Change in Filings by Time Period
Census Division & States 1987-1992 1992-1994 1994-1998
New England
CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT
382.9% [-16.5%] 70.4%
Mid-Atlantic
NJ, NY, PA
162.2% [-10.8%] 87.6%
East North Central
IL, IN, MI, OH
50.3% [-17.6%] 79.2%
West North Central
IA, KS, MN, MO, ND, NE, SD
52.8% [-17.2%] 68.8%
South Atlantic
DC, DE, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV
115.5% [-13.8%] 83.2%
East South Central
AL, KY, MS, TN
56.9% [-13.7%] 54.8%
West South Central
AR, LA, OK, TX
19.7% [-15.4%] 80.8%
Mountain
AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, UT, WY
33.6% [-19.5%] 80.3%
Pacific
AK, CA, HI, OR, WA
59.4% [-10.9%] 54.8%
National Average 69.0% [-14.3%] 73.2%



Footnotes

1 All views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees. Return to article


Updated May 7, 2015