Sunday, July 26, 2009

AP Study: Bankruptcies Lower in States that Do Not Seize Wages

According to Mike Baker, reporting for the Associated Press this month, there are fewer personal bankruptcy filings in states that do not permit garnishment of wages. They also find striking differences along state borders.

States that allow debt collectors to seize consumers' wages have sharply higher bankruptcy rates than neighboring states that prohibit or strictly limit the practice, an Associated Press analysis has found.

This link highlights a dilemma for credit-card companies and other debt chasers: By going after wages — an increasingly popular maneuver since the recession began, lawyers say — they risk pushing consumers into bankruptcy court, where judges can reduce or wipe away all sorts of financial obligations.

The apparent relationship between so-called garnishment laws and states' bankruptcy rates also bolsters the arguments of consumer advocates, who have long said that intercepting someone's wages to pay their debts only increases their financial vulnerability.

After gathering millions of bankruptcy records from 2006 until now, the AP plotted the number of filings for each U.S. county in its Economic Stress Map — a geographic, chronological and visual depiction of economic misery based on unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy data.

While bankruptcy rates vary for many reasons, the five states that prohibit or strongly limit wage seizures — North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Florida and Texas — all have drastically lower rates than their neighbors, with particularly striking differences along borders, where economic conditions are similar but bankruptcy rates are not. . . .

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