The Administrative Office of the Courts has released its annual report on bankruptcy statistics. It provides a snapshot of the average bankruptcy filer in the United States, but it also breaks the data down by court, which allows us to get a glimpse of what the typical consumer bankruptcy filer here in Milwaukee looks like.
According to the report, in the United States as a whole, nearly 750,000 consumer bankruptcies were filed. Filers had assets of $72 billion and total liabilities of $191 billion.
Debtors in the Southern District of California and in the Northern District of California reported the highest average assets per petition at $344,000 and $224,000, respectively. Filers in the Western District of Tennessee reported the lowest average assets, $43,000.
Excluding districts with fewer than 200 case filings each, debtors in Western District of Washington reported the highest average liabilities per filed petition at $8,348,000. However, this data is skewed by one debtor in the district who reported total liabilities of $85,122,168,563. Filers in the Western District of Tennessee had the lowest average liabilities at $65,000.
The data from the Eastern District of Wisconsin gives you a good idea of what is going on with bankruptcies in the Milwaukee area since the majority of the bankruptcies in the entire district, which covers about half of the state, are from the 5 counties that make up the Milwaukee metropolitan area. 12,243 bankruptcies were filed in the Eastern District. Filers reported having over $737 million in assets and $1.1 billion in liabilities. This is an average of approximately $60,000 in assets and $90,000 in liabilities per filer.
Nationwide, approximately 61% of all consumer bankruptcy cases were filed under Chapter 7, which allows a debtor to liquidate their assets to pay off debts, then have most other debts forgiven. Around 38% of the cases were filed under Chapter 13, which requires the debtor to enter into a multi-year debt repayment plan that is supervised by the court. 52% of the people that filed under Chapter 13 were able to pay off all of their debts.
In the Eastern District of Wisconsin, 69% of the bankruptcy cases were filed under Chapter 7, while 34% of the cases were filed under Chapter 13. Almost 46% of the debtors who filed under Chapter 13 were able to pay off their debts.
The median average monthly income reported by all debtors was $2,668 (1 percent higher than in 2015), and the median average reported monthly expenses were $2,590 (less than 1 percent higher than in 2015). Filers in the Northern District of California had the highest median average monthly income with $3,500, and filers in Puerto Rico had the lowest median average monthly income with $1,848. Filers in the District of Connecticut had the highest median average expenses with $3,520, and filers in Western District of Tennessee had the lowest with $1,720.
In the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the median average monthly income reported by filers was $2,516. Median reported expenses were $2,478.
This all suggests that Milwaukee debtors are pretty average, which is a good thing! On average, people who live here are bringing in more money than they rack up in necessary expenses each month, and people here don’t have outrageous levels of debt. This means bankruptcy is an option that can help people in this area get back on their feet.