Debtor Nation: 35 Percent of Americans Owe Bills to Collection Agencies

A new study by the Urban Institute says that over 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies. This means the bill is so overdue (generally at least 180 days) that the account has been closed and placed in collections…That comes to 77 million souls who face the sleepless nights and anxiety that comes from an inability to meet debt obligations. These citizens owe an average of $5,178 each (median $1,349)…

Many people dealing with debt collectors report bullying and harassment. But financial distress is a worry not just for the individual, but for famlies and communities, too. With increasing numbers of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, any emergency, big or small, can push them into financial hell. Psychologists and sociologists are beginning to explore the debt-stress connection and how it destroys social bonds.

In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the heroine pleads for debt relief by appealing to Christian mercy. In contemporary America, no such mercy exists. Debtor’s prisons appear to be on on their way back.


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