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National Bankruptcy Research Center February 2011 Bankruptcy Filings Report

February bankruptcy filings continue the downward trend in bankruptcy filings since the peak of the crisis last year. Filings were slightly above 100,000, nominally up 11% from January. But filings in January usually are the lowest of the year, so the jump, on a seasonally adjusted basis (accounting for the normal variation in filings through the course of the last four years), amounts to an increase of only 1%. More notably, filings were down 8% from last February; filings to date in 2011 are down 9% from the same time last year.

Nationwide, filings amounted to about 450 filings per million adults, about one in every 2200 people. Through the course of 2010 the filing rates have become increasingly disparate throughout the country. This year’s early reports are no different, with the highest filing rates still concentrated in the Southwest and a swathe cutting up from the Southeast. Thus, on a population-adjusted basis, Nevada has almost twice the national filing rate; Georgia, Tennessee, and California follow (in that order), all with more than one and a half time the national average. At the other end of the spectrum, nine jurisdictions had filings less than half the national average. Alaska as usual was the lowest at only one-third the national average, followed (in ascending order) by the District of Columbia, South Dakota, North Dakota, Vermont, South Carolina, Wyoming, New York, and Montana.

Another noteworthy trend is the sharp disparity in changes in filing rates since last year. Four states still have filings higher this year than last year: Utah, Delaware, California, and Idaho (in descending order). California’s continuing increase is bringing it rapidly up the list of states with the highest filing rate; as noted above, it has the fourth-highest filing rate in the country this year. At the other end of the distribution, several states have seen filings plummet since last year: filings are down by 20% or more in Vermont, West Virginia, Connecticut, Iowa, and Oklahoma.

This analysis was performed on data collected by the National Bankruptcy Research Center (NBKRC) by NBKRC contributor Professor Ronald Mann of the Columbia Law School.