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NBKRC Quarterly Bankruptcy Filings Report (March 2013)

Filings for March 2013 were up sharply from February (to 105,000 this month from 77,000 last month); the total for March was the first time since last August that filings exceeded 100,000, and the highest in any month since last May. But taken in context the news is actually reassuring. Filings in March typically are the highest of the year, so the increase from February is to be expected. What is far more salient is that the filings this March were down 16% from last March, and were the lowest for any March since 2008, before the beginning of the Great Recession. The sense of decline is buttressed by quarterly figures: filings during the first quarter of 2013 are down 15% from the first quarter of 2012.

Total filings this year are at a rate of about 1100 per million adults (one for every 900 adults). Against that norm, five States stand out with remarkably high rates, more than 50% above the national average. Tennessee remains 1 by far the highest (at 2150, almost twice the national average); it is followed, in order, by Georgia, Alabama, Utah, and Illinois (with 1980, 1830, 1810, and 1760 filings per million adults, respectively). Interestingly, as the high filings rates of the recession recedes, the pattern of high rates is spreading out of the Southeast and Pacific Southwest where it has been concentrated for much of the last two years. Nevada, for example, which had by far the highest rates in the country for most of 2011 and 2012 is now nowhere near the top of the list.

One interesting way to see the same point is to examine the filing rates in the Nation’s largest urban centers. The table below displays the filing rates (per million adults) in the first quarter of 2013 for the Nation’s twelve largest counties – those with more than 1.5 million adults. Within that group, Chicago stands out with by far the highest filing rate, substantially more than twice the national average. Miami comes next, at almost twice the national average. It is followed in turn by the four large counties of southern California, led by Riverside County (on the east side of Los Angeles) but all substantially above than the national average. At the bottom of the table, by contrast, are the two largest counties in New York City and in Texas. Brooklyn has the lowest rate of all (only 382 filings per million adults this quarter), but all four are markedly below the national average. Phoenix and Seattle fall in the middle of the table, with filings at about the national norm.

COUNTYJanuary 2013 Filings (Per Million Adults)
Cook (Chicago, Illinois)2358
Miami-Dade (Florida)1951
Riverside (L.A., California)1951
Los Angeles (California)1374
San Diego (California)1304
Orange (L.A., California)1248
Maricopa (Phoenix, Arizona)1193
King (Seattle, Washington)1012
Dallas (Texas)777
Queens (New York)517
Harris (Houston, Texas)477
Kings (Brooklyn, New York)382

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.