Bankruptcy is on the rise amongst college graduates.
As we reported yesterday, a new U.S. Census Bureau study confirms that a college education “is a well established path to better jobs and better earnings.” But another, more cautionary study by the Institute for Financial Literacy finds that a college education is no protection against bankruptcy.
While 70 percent of debtors didn’t graduate from college, the rate of degree holders filing for bankruptcy increased by 20 percent over the past five years, the study found. “We’re told that if you do go and get advanced education, you’re going to be almost guaranteed this economic success,” Leslie E. Linfield, the IFL’s executive director told The Washington Post. “But the recession proved that higher education was no guarantee that you weren’t going to be at risk.”
Young people, however, go to the head of the class in warding off bankruptcy. Those between the ages of 18-24 and 25-34 have seen a combined decrease of filings of 31 percent over the last five years. This may be, the report speculates, either a matter of better fiscal management or having less access to credit.
The news is less rosy for the 45-54 age group, which for the first time usurps those ages 35-44 as the majority of bankruptcy filers.
The study finds that several factors have been consistently responsible over the past five years for financial distress. They include the death of a family member, the birth or adoption of a child, divorce, identity theft and illness or injury. The recession though has also had a significant impact. In 2006, just over 52 percent of respondents said that reduction of income was responsible for them filing for bankruptcy. That number grew to almost 65 percent in 2010, a 24.44 percent increase. Job loss was cited as a factor by 36.1 percent five years ago. By 2010, that number grew to 43.57 percent, an increase of nearly 21 percent.
Overextending on credit remains the primary cause of financial distress for bankruptcy filers, followed closely by unexpected expenses and reduction of income, a factor that increased by almost 14 percent between 2007 and 2009, the recession years, and continues to grow in 2010.