Not much unites Americans these days, except, perhaps, past-due bills. A third of American households are currently in debt, and in the second quarter of 2017, they owed a record $13 trillion altogether.
In a new interactive map, researchers at the Urban Institute visualize how this massive debt burden varies by geography. The map is based on 5 million records sourced from a major credit bureau, and shows each county’s share of households that have their debt in collections. The darker the color, the higher the concentration of people who haven’t been able to pay what they owe, from credit card and medical bills, to parking tickets to child support.
After the institutions these people owe money to send their case to a collections agency, their financial situation can go even further downhill: their credit scores can suffer, jeopardizing, among other things, the ability to borrow money, rent or buy homes, and be eligible for certain types of jobs. In other words, having debt in collections has longterm and far-reaching effects, explains Signe-Mary Mckernan, co-director of the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute.
The upshot: Not a single county in America is debt-free, according to this UI map. The extent of the borrowing, however, is dramatically different between states. Louisiana, for example, has 10 times more households with debt in collections (30 percent) than Minnesota (3 percent). In general, the South appears to be drowning in debt, with shares higher than 50 percent in places like Deaf Smith County in Texas and Carter County in Kentucky.
Read the full article on CityLab here.