How Americans Look at Bankruptcy

According to the latest YouGov Omnibus survey 18% of Americans have either filed for bankruptcy or a member of their household has done so. Nearly a quarter of Americans (23%) have either considered, or have a member of their household who has considered, filing for bankruptcy.

Americans making under $40,000 a year are likelier than Americans in higher income brackets to consider filing for bankruptcy. 30% stated they or a member of their family have considered bankruptcy as an option.
32% of adults with children under 18 stated that they or a member of their household has considered filing for bankruptcy at some point.
One in four adults (25%) interviewed with children under 18 claimed that they, or a member of their household, had filed for bankruptcy at some point in their lives.

Understanding Bankruptcy

It appears that Americans don’t fully understand the facts behind filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (the most common form of bankruptcy in the United States).

Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy typically cancels debt such as credit card bills, past due utility bills, medical bills, and personal loans borrowed from friends and family, however alimony, child support and generally outstanding federal taxes cannot be cancelled through bankruptcy.

Only 28% of Americans are aware that alimony debt cannot be discharged through Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
37% know that child support debt cannot be cancelled.
Only a third (33%) know that recent outstanding federal taxes cannot be cancelled through filing Chapter 7.

Which of the following types of debts do you think cannot be cancelled by a full Chapter 7 bankruptcy, if any?

Americans currently owe over $1 Trillion in student loans, however, less than a third of Americans (31%) know that student loan debt cannot necessarily be discharged by Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Nowadays most student loan debt is insured by the United States Department of Education, or other governmental units such as Sallie Mae, which make this type of loans generally dischargeable.

Americans aren’t clear about often it is possible to file for bankruptcy – only 14% know that it is only possible to file once every eight years. A much higher 26% realize that bankruptcy can show up on their credit report for up to ten years.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Filing

Loss of credit rating and business considerations outweigh shame when Americans consider the disadvantages of bankruptcy. Nearly two thirds of Americans (62%) believe that the loss of credit rating is the main disadvantage in filing for bankruptcy, compared to 26% who worried about the associated shame. 41% of those surveyed stated that one of the main disadvantages of filing for bankruptcy is that some businesses will never work with them again.

What do you think are the main disadvantages of filing for Bankruptcy?

Roughly 7 out of 10 Americans (71%) over the age of 55 found the loss of credit score the most disadvantageous aspect of filing for bankruptcy, 70% of those making of $80,000 a year also agreed that this was one of the main disadvantages. Over a third of Americans making (35%) over $80,000 also perceived shame as a big disadvantage of filing for bankruptcy.

In terms of the advantages of filing for bankruptcy over half of Americans (55%) agreed that getting a fresh start was an important positive aspect of doing so. Other perceived advantages of filing for bankruptcy:

  • 42% thought clearing debt was an important advantage of filing for bankruptcy
  • 41% thought stopping collection agencies from harassing individuals was important
  • Saving a person’s home was also considered one of the main advantages by 39% of respondents.

For further information about poll results see the original information, go to

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