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2006 Bankruptcies Fall to Lowest Levels Since 1980s

Contact: John Hartgen
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April 17, 2007 Alexandria, Va. —Bankruptcy filings in the United States dropped to their lowest level since 1988 as calendar year 2006 filings plunged following the implementation of the new bankruptcy law in 2005, according to data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC). One year after the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) was implemented on Oct. 17, 2005, total bankruptcy filings for calendar year 2006 dropped to 617,660, representing the lowest filing total since 613,465 total filings were recorded for the 12-month period ending Dec.31, 1988. The total filings for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2006, represent a 70.28 percent decrease compared with the record total of 2,078,415 filings for the same period in 2005.

Consumer bankruptcies recorded the sharpest decrease; the 597,965 consumer filings during calendar year 2006 represented a 70.68 percent drop in filings from the record 2,039,214 filings made during the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2005. The 12-month filing total for 2006 was the lowest since the 549,612 filings were recorded for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 1988.  

'The final government statistics merely confirm what all in the bankruptcy world had already experienced: a historic drop-off in 2006 activity almost entirely due to the after-effect of the 2005 law changes,' said ABI Executive Director Samuel J. Gerdano. 'But as the debt burden on the household sector remains high, most expect consumer bankruptcies to bounce back by the end of this year,' he said.

While the number of consumer filings reached their lowest point since 1988, the 2006 calendar year consumer filings revealed a noticeable shift in the type of bankruptcies being filed by consumers. Largely the result of stricter requirements under BAPCPA, the 248,430 chapter 13 cases filed for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2006, represented 41.55 percent of the overall consumer filing total. The 349,012 consumers who filed for chapter 7 during the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2006, comprised 58.37 percent of the total consumer filings for the 2006 calendar year. The filing pattern was vastly different from 2005, when there were 1,631,011 chapter 7 cases filed, representing 79.98 percent of total bankrupt consumer filings, while only 19.97 percent of consumer cases, representing 407,322 filings, were filed under chapter 13 during the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2005.

The 19,695 business filings during the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2006, were the lowest on record under the current statistics reporting system, which was implemented in 1980. The previous lowest business filing total for a 12-month period was recorded in 2004, with 34,317 business bankruptcies filed. The 2006 filing total also represents 49.78 percent decrease from the 39,201 business bankruptcy filings during the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2005.

The 177,599 total bankruptcies recorded during the 4th calendar quarter of 2006 (Oct.1-Dec. 31, 2006) represent a 73.39 percent drop from the 667,431 filings during the similar period in 2005. Total filings for the month of October registered a 90.23 percent drop from 2005 as 61,592 filings were recorded for the month in 2006 as compared to the 630,497 cases that were filed in October 2005 leading up to the implementation of BAPCPA that year. Despite the drop-off from the previous year, the 2006 4th calendar quarter filing total was the highest of any previous quarter for 2006 and represented a 3.63 percent increase over the 3rd quarter (July 1 – Sept. 30) total of 171,146.

The 172,013 consumer filings in the 4th quarter of 2006 represent a 73.72 percent decrease in comparison to the 654,633 consumer filings for the same quarter of 2005. The consumer filing total for the 4th calendar quarter did, however, represent a 3.58 percent increase from the previous total of 165,862 filings from the 3rd quarter of 2006.

Business filings, which totaled 5,586 for the 4th calendar quarter of 2006, represented a 56.35 percent decrease from the 12,798 filed in the same 3-month period in 2005 (Oct. 1-Dec. 31). Business filings did rise from the previous quarter as the 4th calendar quarter represented a 5.41 percent increase over 5,284 business filings reported during the 3rd quarter of 2006 (July 1- Sept. 30).

The chapter* breakdown of BUSINESS filings for the 3-month period ending Dec.31, 2006, is 3,567 chapter 7s, 1,170 chapter 11s, 74 chapter 12s and 763 chapter 13s.

The chapter breakdown of NONBUSINESS filings for the 3-month period ending Dec. 31, 2006, is 98,824 chapter 7s, 134 chapter 11s and 73,052 chapter 13s.

Districts with the LOWEST PERCENTAGE DECREASE in Total Filings for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2006 (compared to the identical period in 2005):

  1. Western District of Tennessee: 45.29%
  2. Southern District of Georgia: 46.49%
  3. District of the Northern Mariana Islands: 46.88%
  4. Northern District of Georgia: 51.22%
  5. Middle District of Tennessee: 51.68%

Districts with the HIGHEST PERCENTAGE DECREASE in Total Filings for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2006 (compared to the identical period in 2005):

  1. Eastern District of Louisiana: 85.14%
  2. Southern District of West Virginia: 84.01%
  3. Eastern District of Oklahoma: 83.75%
  4. Western District of Oklahoma: 81.79%
  5. Northern District of West Virginia: 81.21%

More information will be available at  ABI’s Statistics Page,


ABI is the largest multi-disciplinary, nonpartisan 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 11,500 attorneys, accountants, bankers, judges, professors, lenders, turnaround specialists and other bankruptcy professionals providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information. For additional information on ABI, visit For additional conference information, visit

*Definitions from Bankruptcy Overview: Issues, Law and Policy, by the American Bankruptcy Institute

Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code is available to both individual and business debtors. Its purpose is to achieve a fair distribution to creditors of the debtor’s available non-exempt property.  Unsecured debts not reaffirmed are discharged, providing a fresh financial start.  

Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code is available for both business and consumer debtors. Its purpose is to rehabilitate a business as a going concern or reorganize an individual’s finances through a court-approved reorganization plan.

Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code is designed to give special debt relief to a family farmer with regular income from farming. 

Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code is available for an individual with regular income whose debts do not exceed specific amounts; it is typically used to budget some of the debtor’s future earnings under a plan through which unsecured creditors are paid in whole or in part.

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