xmas3.gif (5351 bytes)


Women Lead Men in Bankruptcies by 1.4 X


Economic Issues

Women Lead In Bankruptcies

Studies show a dramatic rise in bankruptcy filings by women. While detailed data on bankruptcies are hard to come by, Harvard University law professor and bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren says filings by women have surpassed men and married couples in total numbers.

bullet Women accounted for 39 percent of filings in the 12-month period ending March 31 -- compared to 28 percent of filings entered by men and 33 percent for married couples.
bullet Warren says that if a women is divorced, she is 300 percent more likely to opt for bankruptcy.
bullet Other experts cite the low incomes of many elderly women and their susceptibility to fraud.
bullet Last year, Oliver Pollack, a history professor and bankruptcy lawyer in Omaha, released a study finding the proportion of women filing in Nebraska had increased from 14.6 percent in 1967 to 32.4 percent in 1997.

Congress is considering legislation that would make it harder to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection -- which wipes out most debt, including credit card debt.

Source: Christine Dugas, "Women Rank 1st in Bankruptcy Filings," USA Today, June 21, 1999.

For more on Bankruptcy http://www.ncpa.org/pd/economy/econ2.html

If women had filed for only 14.6% of bankruptcies in 1997, as they did in 1967, there would have been 24.4% or 342,611 fewer bankruptcies, for a total of only 1,061,534 bankruptcies in 1997.  This still would have represented an inexplicible 2.7 fold increase in the bankruptcy rate, from 146 to 397 bankruptcies per 100,000 population, but this increasing tendency of women to file for bankruptcy during the same time that they were entering the labor force in record numbers, coupled with an overall 3.8 fold in the bankruptcy rate since 1980, suggests that their entry into the labor force has not been the raving success that the media pretends that it's been.



U.S. Bankruptcy Filings 1980-1998 (Business, Non-Business, Total)

bankruptcyus.gif (27392 bytes)


ABI World

Year Totals
Consumer Filings
as a Percentage
of Total Filings
1980 331,264 43,694 287,570 86.81%
1981 363,943 48,125 315,818 86.78%
1982 380,251 69,300 310,951 81.78%
1983 348,880 62,436 286,444 82.10%
1984 348,521 64,004 284,517 81.64%
1985 412,510 71,277 341,233 82.72%
1986 530,438 81,235 449,203 84.69%
1987 577,999 82,446 495,553 85.74%
1988 613,465 63,853 549,612 89.59%
1989 679,461 63,235 616,226 90.69%
1990 782,960 64,853 718,107 91.72%
1991 943,987 71,549 872,438 92.42%
1992 971,517 70,643 900,874 92.73%
1993 875,202 62,304 812,898 92.88%
1994 832,829 52,374 780,455 93.71%
1995 926,601 51,959 874,642 94.39%
1996 1,178,555 53,549 1,125,006 95.46%
1997 1,404,145 54,027 1,350,118 96.15%
1998 1,442,549 44,367 1,398,182 96.92%
1999 1,319,465 44,367 1,281,581 97.12%


Friday,November 17,2000


BEFORE you start shopping for Christmas gifts, consider this.

Personal bankruptcies will increase a whopping 10 to 20 percent next year, according to SMR Research. And with the stock market suddenly no longer making people feel very wealthy, that estimate could be low.

This isn't one of those research outfits that loves bad news. SMR is probably the only place to correctly report that bankruptcies would decline in 1998 and '99.

"It's mostly a continuation of an upward trend which has been going on for 10 years now," said researcher George Yacik of next year's trend.

The difference from the last two years? In 1998 and '99, "people on the edge were able to refinance their debt and take the heat off," Yacik noted.

That trick works only if rates keep going down. Since last year, the Federal Reserve has raised borrowing costs six times because people, feeling too affluent, were driving prices too high.

The Fed got what it wanted. People no longer feel rich. But the reasons why there will be so many bankruptcies is much more complex than just the actions of Greenspan & Co.

There's the growth of gambling in this country. And more and more people find themselves without health care, so one good-sized illness puts them over the solvency line.

There are also lots of divorces. And lawyers, of course, have been pushing bankruptcy as a way to solve financial problems, even as Congress is trying to tighten the laws.

But the biggest reason more people are expected to go bankrupt next year is simple: Americans - already profligate - got into the habit of spending way too much at a time when wealth was being created artificially by the stock market bubble rather than in the paycheck.

Here are some numbers.

In 1998, there were 1.38 million personal bankruptcy filings. In 1994, the number was only 770,000.

But bankruptcies fell to 1.26 million in 1999, mainly - SMR said - because people were able to two-step their way out of bankruptcy thanks to banks willing to lend them money against their home's equity.

According to the latest government numbers, one-quarter of homeowners have less than $1,000 in the bank. Another 27.5 percent have between $1,000 and $5,000 in the bank. And because of the declining savings rate in recent years, fewer non-homeowners have the three to six months' worth of salary stashed away as a buffer against disaster. And those figures are from 1995, when the savings rate was higher. The situation has probably gotten worse since then.

Bankruptcies started to climb this year, but 2001 is when the researchers expect the real jump to record levels.

Aside from the tightening of credit, the main culprits this time will be higher energy prices and the uncooperative stock market.

Most of the wealth created in this country over the last decade came from the stock market bubble. The bubble isn't gone yet. But the market's deflation in the last few months - amplified more than adequately by the media - has caused investors to become more cautious.

That newfound caution will help.

But the next wave of bankruptcies is already locked. People who made purchases and plans based on yesterday's perceived wealth and estimates of future capital gains won't be able to pay for their dreams.

The situation will be worse, of course, if the economy doesn't slow gently or the stock market takes a big dip.

David Levy of The Levy Institute said, "The chances are 2-to-1 that we will have a recession in the next 12 months."

"The total debt - personal and corporate - has been growing faster than income, especially during the past 20 years. There is a constantly increasing strain on people," he added.

Levy believes if there is a recession, bankruptcies could become a lot worse than even SMR is forecasting.

* Please send e-mail to:

[email protected] 

Also see http://www.usdoj.gov/ust/