More than a third of the country is in trouble when it comes to paying debts on time; 35% of Americans have debt in collections, according to a study out Tuesday from the Urban Institute, which analyzed the credit files of 7 million Americans.
That means the debt is so far past due that the account has been closed and placed in collections. This typically happens after the bill hasn't been paid for 180 days. It also means the debt has been reported to credit bureaus and can affect someone's credit score.
Southern states especially stand out with the highest concentration of people delinquent. In 13 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico and West Virginia — and Washington, D.C., more than 40% of the population with a credit file has debt in collections. Nevada, one of the states hardest hit by the housing crisis and recession, has the highest share, at 46.9%.
The 77 million Americans with debt in collections owe an average of $5,200. That includes debt from credit card bills, child support, medical bills, utility bills, parking tickets or membership fees.