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Unconscious racial bias may affect bankruptcy filings for African Americans

| Nov 11, 2016 | Chapter 7 |

Which form of bankruptcy a debtor files for is supposed to be dependent on their current income level and the types and amounts of debt they have at the time of the bankruptcy filing. It is certainly not supposed to be determined by the debtor’s racial or ethnic background. Unfortunately, there is research showing that racial bias may indeed have an influence on bankruptcy filings.

According to data collected from various research studies in recent years, African American debtors are significantly more likely to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy than for Chapter 7, compared to debtors of other racial backgrounds. The result is that African American debtors may be more likely to receive less debt relief than they might otherwise be able to obtain.

Sources weren’t aren’t clear what specific factors may be at work in the disproportional number of Chapter 13 filings among African American debtors, but did say that researches believe implicit or unconscious racial bias may be at play. In other words, attorneys and judges may, for some reason, be steering African American debtors in the direction of Chapter 13 filings rather than Chapter 7 filings. Previous research has shown that this is happening, regardless of the financial situations of debtors.

Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy is not always a bad choice, of course, even when a debtor qualifies for a Chapter 7 filing. In our next post, we’ll say more about this, as well as the importance of working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to determine which form of bankruptcy is the best choice for a debtor.


Bloomberg BNA, “Racial Bias Reflected in Bankruptcy Filings,” Daniel Gill, Nov. 1, 2016.

The New York Times, “Blacks Face Bias in Bankruptcy, Study Suggests,” Tara Siegel Bernard, Jan. 20, 2012.

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