Utah, the Nation’s Bankruptcy Capital

By: Charles Essmeier

One would think, given the accusations, that the highest bankruptcy rate in the Untied States would be in place where such vices were common, such as California, New York or even Nevada. If problem gambling is thought to be the cause of so much bankruptcy, then one might assume that Las Vegas would be the bankruptcy capital of the world. How odd it is, then, to discover that Utah, one of only two states that prohibits gambling completely, has the highest per capita incidence of bankruptcy filings in the United States. Utah? How can that be?

Utah has a number of aspects that, taken on their own, don’t suggest that bankruptcy would be a problem. Added together, however, these things create a recipe for disaster:

  • Utah has the nation’s highest birthrate.

    Seventy percent of the citizens of Utah are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and members are encouraged to have large families. It costs more to feed, clothe and house a large family than a small one.
  • Utah has more families with only one wager earner. Large families mean more stay-at-home moms, so a lot of families must get by on a single paycheck.
  • Utah’s wages are lower than average. Many high tech companies have relocated to Utah in recent years, but the “high tech" jobs they provide are often telephone customer service jobs, which typically pay $8-10 per hour.
  • Members of the LDS Church are expected to tithe 10% of their income to the Church.
  • While Utah’s home prices are not among the highest nationally, they are fairly high when compared to the average wage within the state.

The combination of large families, fewer workers per family, church donations and low wages have contributed to an economic environment that makes it very hard for many Utahns to stay afloat financially. This is in direct contrast with the arguments put forth by Congress when the new bankruptcy law was proposed, which suggested that most people filing for bankruptcy are simply irresponsible. For many hard-working people in UtahFeature Articles, the new law will make it harder than ever to make ends meet.

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