Skipped bill payments in California hit record low

Skipped bill payments in California hit record low

”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards judging geographic locations while noting these grades are best seen as a mix of artful interpretation and data.

Buzz: Californians are paying their bills on time at a record-setting pace.

Source: My trusty spreadsheet reviewed the bill-paying habits of consumers as compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The report, using Equifax credit report data, tracks nationwide trends as well as 11 big states, including California, for borrowers with credit histories – or roughly 90% of the nation.


Despite lots of talk about economic anxieties across the Golden State, only 0.95% of California debts were tardy in the second quarter. That delinquency rate is down a smidge from 0.96% in the first quarter and sharply below the 1.87% average of pre-pandemic 2018-19.

Plus, California’s delinquency rate is the best of the 11 big states and well below the nation’s 1.48% pace. And as for California’s economic rivals, Texas had the worst rate out of the 11 at 1.99% while Florida was fifth at 1.85%.

Also, the size of California’s delinquent debts looks modest, too – $1,463 per capita in the second quarter. That’s the third-smallest of the 11 states and 7% below the nation’s $1,581. The $1,979 in late debt of the typical Texan was the second-highest. Florida’s $1,930 was No. 3. And No. 1? Nevada at $2,206.


Californians aren’t taking on many new debts, relatively speaking. Per-capita debts grew 2.4% in the year ending in June, the smallest of the 11 states and roughly half of the 4.6% increase nationally.

You could argue that limited debt growth is a sign of economic uncertainty among Californians. But one early warning signal of financial stress – the share of debts becoming 90 days late – looks mild.

Just 0.17% of California debts reached this heightened level of tardiness in the second quarter vs. 0.38% a year ago and 0.52% in 2018-19. California’s rate was again the lowest of the 11 states and well under the 0.46%

This is not to say Californians don’t have a pile of debts. Measured per resident, the Golden State is tops among the 11 states at $83,330. That’s 39% above the nation’s $59,972.

Those California debts are largely tied to home loans, which comes as no surprise! First-mortgage debt per capita in California was $66,900 – 57% above the $42,540 national average.

But other California debts – credit card, auto, student loans, second mortgages, etc. – were $16,430 per person, the third-smallest of the 11 states and 6% below the US average of $17,432.


Paying your bills – and paying them easily – can be two different things.

An average 39% of Californians experienced “difficulty paying for usual household expenses” this summer, according to my spreadsheet’s look at three recent Census Bureau surveys on personal finances. That was slightly above the nation’s 38% average and 18th highest among the 50 states.

Among the California metro areas in the survey, the Inland Empire had the most bill-paying challenges at 44% of households, followed by Los Angeles-Orange County at 38% and San Francisco at 29%.

Bottom line

So how are Californians getting bills paid?

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Not everyone, though, is successfully juggling the monetary hurdles. Consider this caution signal in the debt data: new bankruptcies.

California consumer bankruptcies were filed at a rate of 29 per 100,000 people in the second quarter – up from 20 a year earlier, a record low.

Before you get too antsy about that, note that this was still the state’s seventh-lowest filing rate since 2003. And California’s bankruptcy pace was fourth-lowest of the 11 states and below the 40 per 100,000 U.S. pace.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com