US bankruptcy statistics: how big a problem is it?

1 min readLast updated April 30, 2024by Rachel Carey

Bankruptcy remains a significant challenge in the United States, with millions of individuals and businesses filing annually due to financial distress.


  • In 2023, bankruptcy court statistics saw a 40.4% increase in business bankruptcy filings. 

  • Despite the increase in 2023, bankruptcy filings are less than a third of 2010 figures. 

  • The first quarter of 2024 showed an increase of 8.89% in household filings compared to the year before. 

Why do people file for bankruptcy in the US? 

Filing for bankruptcy allows people and businesses with unaffordable debt to liquidate their assets to pay off their debt. It also helps them to pay back their debt on a repayment plan, while bankruptcy law protects them from inevitable consequences. 

According to bankruptcy filing statistics, the most common reasons for filing for bankruptcy in the US are one or a combination of the following: 

  • Experiencing a loss of income. 

  • Grappling with hefty medical bills. 

  • Facing an unmanageable mortgage. 

  • Overspending on credit cards or taking out loans. 

  • Extending financial help to friends or family members. 

Recent data from the Administrative Office of the US Courts highlights a 13% increase in bankruptcy filings in the year ending September 2023. For instance, the filings for September 2020 to September 2022 were 383,810, while the following year's filings amounted to 433,658. 

Bankruptcy court statistics also show that business filings surged almost 30%, from 13,125 for the year up to September 2023 to 17,051 for the following 12 months. 

A survey from 2013 to 2016 revealed that approximately 78% of bankruptcy filers attributed their financial woes to income loss. While population affects each state's bankruptcy filing ratio, state legislation and socioeconomic factors are pivotal in shaping bankruptcy trends across different regions. For example, Mississippi's higher bankruptcy rate is likely due to harsh economic conditions and low wages. 

Medical debt contributes significantly to bankruptcy filings, as evidenced by the Kaiser Family Foundation's reports. Their findings indicate that 41% of Americans carry medical debt, with 24% contemplating bankruptcy as a means to address it. 

How many people file for bankruptcy in the US?  

The monthly American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) reports that the bankruptcy rate quantifies all bankruptcy filings in a specified area within a year. ABI bankruptcy statistics consider US states, territories, and the District of Columbia. 

The following US Courts table shows the successful bankruptcy filing rates from 2019 to 2023. Unsuccessful or pending filings are omitted: 

2,023 18,926 434,064 452,990
2,022 13,481 374,240 387,721
2,021 14,347 399,269 413,616
2,020 21,655 522,808 544,463
2,019 22,780 752,160 774,940

What are the different bankruptcy rates across the states? 

Bankruptcy rates vary significantly between states in the US, with states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee consistently reporting higher bankruptcy filings. These high rates are often attributed to economic conditions, poverty, and healthcare access. 

Conversely, states like North Dakota, Vermont, and Alaska tend to have lower bankruptcy rates. The below table provides a full breakdown of bankruptcy statistics by state for 2023: 

StateTotal Number of Filings
Alabama 17,887
Alaska 212
Arizona 9,599
Arkansas 6,255
California 38,597
Colorado 6,152
Connecticut 2,900
Delaware 2,187
Florida 29,410
Georgia 27,833
Hawaii 1,060
Idaho 1,714
Illinois 23,703
Indiana 14,681
Iowa 2,836
Kansas 3,591
Kentucky 10,440
Louisiana 8,371
Maine 548
Maryland 9,610
Massachusetts 3,869
Michigan 18,922
Minnesota 6,884
Mississippi 8,779
Missouri 9,482
Montana 677
Nebraska 2,359
Nevada 6,891
New Hampshire 732
New Jersey 12,357
New Mexico 1,193
New York 19,303
North Carolina 7,452
North Dakota 484
Ohio 21,140
Oklahoma 6,004
Oregon 5,687
Pennsylvania 11,027
Rhode Island 843
South Carolina 4,053
South Dakota 625
Tennessee 19,768
Texas 25,671
Utah 6,023
Vermont 213
Virginia 13,004
Washington 6,661
West Virginia 1,487
Wisconsin 8,469
Wyoming 458

What are the differences among bankruptcy chapters in the US? 

In the United States, there are five different chapters of bankruptcy. However, Chapters 7, 11, and 13 are the most prevalent. They are outlined below: 

Chapter 7: Known as 'liquidation' bankruptcy, this type involves selling nonexempt assets to pay off debts. Individuals and companies may file for Chapter 7, and most debts are discharged, providing a fresh financial start. 

Chapter 11: This chapter is primarily used by businesses and allows for reorganization to continue operations while repaying debts. It involves creating a plan to restructure finances and operations under court supervision. 

Chapter 13: This chapter is designed for individuals with regular incomes, such as wage earners. It enables the development of a debt-settling repayment plan that spans three to five years and often allows individuals to keep their assets like homes or cars. 

The less common chapters include Chapter 9 for municipalities and Chapter 12 for family farmers or fishermen. 

The following US Courts table shows the successful bankruptcy filing rates from 2019 to 2023 by chapter.  Unsuccessful or pending filings are omitted: 


YearBankruptcy Chapter
7 11 12 13
2023 261,277 7,456 139 183,956
2022 225,455 4,918 169 157,087
2021 288,327 4,836 276 120,002
2020 378,953 8,333 560 156,377
2019 480,206 7,020 599 286,979

Does bankruptcy affect my credit score? 

Bankruptcy is a drastic step with far-reaching consequences, notably impacting your credit score.  

How long bankruptcy stays on your credit report varies, as it may remain for six years or until discharged, potentially extending the duration if the discharge is prolonged. 

A bankruptcy notation signals to lenders a heightened risk of defaulting on repayments, significantly impeding access to credit and even essential financial services like opening a new bank account. 

Additionally, bankruptcy can make lenders wary, resulting in higher interest rates or outright rejection of credit applications. As a result, individuals may face challenges in rebuilding their financial standing and regaining trustworthiness in the eyes of creditors. 

How much does it cost to file for bankruptcy? 

Determining the cost of filing for bankruptcy is complex and varies based on individual circumstances.  

Financial situation, bankruptcy type, case complexity, and legal representation influence the total expenses. This said, the fees generally range from $300 to $4,000

Here's a breakdown of what bankruptcy costs typically include: 

  • Court filing fees: These are mandatory fees paid to the bankruptcy court when submitting your petition. The amount varies according to the type of bankruptcy you file. 

  • Credit counseling: Before filing for bankruptcy, individuals should go for credit counseling at a government-approved agency. This counseling typically incurs a fee, though it may be waived for those who qualify. 

  • Attorney fees: Due to the intricacy of the process, it is advisable to hire a bankruptcy attorney. Bankruptcy filing statistics show that only around 6% of people opt to file on their own, without an attorney. An attorney’s costs will vary based on location, experience, and the complexity of your case, but it could save you money in the long run. 

  • Miscellaneous fees: Additional expenses for services like credit reports, bankruptcy classes, and document preparation may arise. 

Are there any alternatives to bankruptcy? 

Bankruptcy should be deemed a last resort due to its long-term impact on creditworthiness, potentially limiting access to credit for up to a decade.  

Several alternatives exist:  

  • Credit counseling: This involves working with an accredited credit counselor to create a budget and plan to manage debts more effectively. 

  • Debt consolidation: Combines multiple debts into a loan with a lower interest rate, streamlining payments and potentially reducing the debt burden. Typical loan amounts for debt consolidation range from $10,000 to $20,000. 

  • Debt management plan (DMP): Administered by credit counseling agencies, DMPs negotiate with creditors to lower interest rates or waive fees, allowing individuals to repay debts over a structured timeframe. 

  • Debt settlement: Involves arranging with creditors to settle debts at a lower total amount owed, typically in a lump sum payment.  

These alternatives offer ways to address debt and regain financial stability without resorting to bankruptcy.  

According to a Forbes survey, more than half the respondents opt for debt consolidation to simplify payments, lower interest rates, and reduce debt burdens. 

Get expert financial advice 

America’s bankruptcy filing statistics highlight just how big the debt problem is in the US. The causes, consequences, and alternatives are, however, myriad. Although bankruptcy is a viable option for financial relief, it should be considered a last resort due to its significant impact on creditworthiness. 

It's vital to seek a financial advisor's expert financial advice to manage your money to avoid this extreme measure as much as possible.  

Let Unbiased match you with an SEC-regulated financial advisor to ensure you get the best possible guidance.  

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.