The “Outnumbered” panel today discussed a new study that shows more than one-third of Americans have debts or unpaid bills that have been reported to debt collectors.

Reuters reported:

More than a third of U.S. adults have bad debt that has been handed over to a collection agency and their average debt in collections is $5,178, according to a study published on Tuesday by the Urban Institute.

The authors of the report by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank said vicious cycles of bad debt can hold back families and entire communities.

The study looked at a random sample of 7 million individual credit reports from TransUnion credit bureau - one of the three big credit reporting companies. That covers 3 percent of the adult population. The sort of debt in collections could be a credit card, medical or utility bill or a parking fine but does not include mortgage debt.


Bad debt loads are probably higher than the data in the study indicate because about 9 percent of U.S. adults do not have a credit file and they are not represented in the study and are more likely to have financial trouble, the authors of the report said.

The study said the level of bad debt is unchanged from about 10 years ago when the Federal Reserve did a study of credit bureau data.

Katie Pavlich pointed out that the economy has not fully recovered from the Great Recession and cited another troubling statistic: 76% of Americans don’t have any emergency savings.

Sandra Smith said this issue is about the personal responsibility of individuals as much as it is about the economy. She added that there has been a lot of talk about the "robust economy" and "record-breaking stock market," but that many people are unable to pay their bills, fearful about the economy and holding onto their cash.

Dr. Keith Ablow agreed and said that, psychologically, "an indebted person is a weak person."

Watch the full discussion in the clip above.

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