The West leads the country in personal bankruptcy filings

 

Every state saw a rise in bankruptcy filings in 2009, but the West -- hit hardest by the collapse of the real estate market -- showed the most increases. The Associated Press reports nationwide figures of more than 1.4 million filings, making 2009 the 7th worst year on record.

Arizona led the way, with a nearly 80 percent increase, followed by Nevada (59.5) California (58.8), Wyoming (58.3) and Utah (57).  The Northwest had increases in the 40 percent range, while Colorado and New Mexico showed increases in the 30 percent range. The national average increase was 32 percent.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Samuel J. Gerdano, executive director of the American Bankruptcy Institute, on the reasons:

"There's a close relationship between high levels of household debt, including mortgage debt, and bankruptcy filings. That...has been exacerbated by the bursting of the housing bubble."

Mortgage troubles, along with job loss, were primary contributors to the increases, with many households feeling the impact of both. Some states with comparatively few foreclosures, such as Utah and Wyoming, had larger increases in personal bankruptcies than Florida, where there were lots of foreclosures. 

An interactive map shows the areas hardest hit.