Wake County is the best county, of course, but it’s generally regarded as one of the more expensive counties in the state to live in—just look at the cost of housing in Raleigh, for example. Wake County also has the ninth highest bankruptcy rate of North Carolina’s 100 counties, according to Lexington Law, a Utah-based national credit repair law firm that has researched bankruptcy rates across the country.
At 26.10 bankruptcies per 10,000 residents, Wake County isn’t at the top of the list (that’s Northampton County, which has nearly 136 bankrupt residents out of every 10,000, and has the tenth highest bankruptcy rate in the country). But it’s far from the bottom of the list—that’s Washington County, which counts around 3 bankrupt residents for every 10,000. This puts Wake above North Carolina’s average of 16.71 bankruptcy cases, but right in line with the national average of 26.7 bankruptcies per 1,000 residents.
The Lexington Law group says it’s difficult to know why Wake County has a comparatively high rate of bankruptcies.
“However,” a spokesperson for the group wrote in an email to the INDY, “it’s worth noting that we included all bankruptcies in our research, both by businesses and individuals, including Chapter 7, 11, and 13 filings. Wake County includes Raleigh, which is a major city so it stands to reason there are thousands of businesses there that could inflate bankruptcy per capita statistics.”
The report used data on the number of bankruptcies in each American county from March 31, 2014 to March 31, 2015, as sourced from bankruptcy filings compiled by the U.S. Federal Courts. Lexington Law then divided those totals by the number of people living in each county per the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 population estimates. Then, the group divided the number of bankruptcies in each county by the number of people in each county to create the per capita calculation, thereby allowing “a fairer estimation of the prevalence of bankruptcy than the raw totals would have.”
“200 bankruptcies in a county of 20,000 is vastly more concerning than 200 bankruptcies in a county of 200,000,” the email sates. “We opted for a per-10,000 residents metric in order to work with larger numbers instead of minute fractions, but the relative prevalence of bankruptcy among counties is obviously unaffected.”
The Lexington Law group’s research shows that bankruptcy rates are most pronounced in the Southeast and Midwest regions of the United States, relative to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama have the highest bankruptcy rates in the country, and the study found that bankruptcy is most prevalent in impoverished counties, where household incomes are below, often well-below, the national average.
“North Carolina is not at the bottom of the pile when it comes to bankruptcy-ridden states,” Lexington Law states in a North Carolina-specific blog post. “In fact, it fares better than many, with an average of 16.71 bankruptcy cases per 10,000 residents. This doesn’t put the state anywhere near the top. However, there is no denying that bankruptcy exists.”
Read more about the group’s research nationally, and about North Carolina specifically.