Ala. counties lead nation in number of bankruptcy filings

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - An analysis by a Columbia Law School professor shows bankruptcy filings rose slightly nationally in December. Professor Ronald Mann's research found Memphis and Las Vegas to be pacesetters, but Alabama had several counties at the top of the list.

The figures, compiled for the National Bankruptcy Research Center, found the national filing rate increased from 493 to 508 per million adults.

The nation's highest filing rate for a county was in Baldwin County, Alabama, home to such resort towns as Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, which were hard hit by last year's Gulf oil spill. It recorded 3,876 bankruptcy filings per million adults in December, more than seven times the national average.

The second highest rate was found in Greene County, Ala., where the poverty rate of 30 percent is nearly double the state's average; followed by Henry County, Ga., Shelby County and Teton County, Idaho.

For urban counties with 100,000 or more residents, Shelby County, Tenn., which includes Memphis, led the nation with 1,738 filings per million adults in December, followed by Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, with 1,271.

"Memphis has had some of the highest filings at the county level for much of the last year," Mann said. "This is particularly interesting, because as a state, Tennessee has a relatively low filing level."

Rounding out the top five for urban areas were Riverside, San Bernardino, and Solano counties in California.

On the positive side of the ledger, the counties that include New York City, Greenville, S.C., McAllen, Tex., West Chester, Penn., and Worcester, Mass., had the lowest filing rates for urban areas, averaging just 163 filings per million adults in December.

"These were areas where there was relatively little of the bubble-era real-estate lending," Mann said. "New York is unusual because, despite its close ties to the financial industry, it has relatively few mortgage loans and an unusually high number of renters."

INFORMATION SOURCE: Columbia University