American Bankruptcy Institute
Join Renew Refer a Colleague Partners Search ABI Store Contact Us Site Map
American Bankruptcy Institute
About ABIABI MembershipMeetings & EventsOnline ResourcesPublicationsNews RoomConsumer Bankruptcy Center
 Print this page



Contact: Scott Relyea
or Michele Parisi
at (703) 739-0800

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 18, 1997 -- Closing a year that saw numerous records set for bankruptcy filings, 1,178,555 bankruptcy petitions were filed by both businesses and consumers during 1996, according to official bankruptcy statistics released today by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. This plateau represents a 27.2 percent increase over total bankruptcy filings for calendar year 1995, which stood at 926,601.

Consumer bankruptcy filings continued to drive the increase, as more than 95 percent of total filings, or 1,125,006, were by individuals. This represents an increase in non-business filings of 28.6 percent over 1995. By contrast, the 53,549 business filings for 1996 marks only a 3 percent increase over business filings for 1995.

Total bankruptcy filings in the United States have more than doubled during the past decade, with only 530,436 petitions filed in 1986. Consumer filings for 1986 stood at nearly 450,000, approximately 85 percent of the total for that year.

"The recent numbers represent a systemic problem within both the bankruptcy system and the economy as a whole," noted Richardo I. Kilpatrick, of the Michigan firm of Shermeta, Chimko & Kilpatrick P.C., who is an ABI director and chair of its Consumer Bankruptcy Committee. "The beat goes on."

The fourth quarter of 1996 marks the second consecutive quarter that total filings for a single three-month period averaged more than 100,000 per month, as 311,131 bankruptcy petitions were filed from October 1 through December 31, 1996, and the fifth consecutive quarter to register an increase in filings.

Of the more than one million consumer bankruptcy filings, 779,741 petitions, or 69.3 percent, were filed under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 7 affords an individual debtor a "fresh start," as his or her unsecured debt is discharged and the individual debtor is allowed to retain some exempt property, while the remaining assets are sold and distributed to secured creditors.

Commenting on the correlation between rising consumer debt levels and the increase in bankruptcy filings, Samuel J. Gerdano, ABI Executive Director, noted, "The alarm bells continue to sound for the financial community and policy makers alike." According to the Federal Reserve, payments on consumer debt during 1996 stood at approximately 17 percent of disposable personal income.

For the fourth consecutive quarter, every state in the country saw an increase in total filings over the previous 12-month period, with only the District of the Northern Mariana Islands among the 93 judicial districts recording a drop. Total filings increased by more than half from 1995 to 1996 in three districts: District of Guam (60.4 percent), District of Hawaii (51.9 percent) and Middle District of Louisiana (50.4 percent).

Once again the Central District of California reported the greatest number of total bankruptcy filings, at 102,645. Marking a 24.7 percent increase over 1995, this number is more than double the filings recorded in 1986, at approximately 47,000.

ABI is the largest multi-disciplinary, non-partisan organization dedicated to research and education on matters related to insolvency. ABI was founded in 1982 to provide Congress and the public with unbiased analysis of bankruptcy issues. The ABI membership includes more than 5,400 attorneys, bankers, judges, professors, turnaround specialists, accountants and other bankruptcy professionals providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information. For more information on ABI, visit ABI World at

For information and statistics collected especially for the media and other researchers, visit

- 30 -

Copyright © 1997 American Bankruptcy Institute.
Previous Press Releases


© 2014 American Bankruptcy Institute, All Rights Reserved