Personal debt is the highest it's ever been in the United States but a large majority of Americans are dealing with it responsibly, and that's encouraging, says Kali McFadden, a senior research analyst at the loan brokerage company LendingTree. About 95 percent of borrowers who live in the largest 100 American metros are paying their bills on time, according to a LendingTree report.
Researchers used credit reports from the first quarter of 2018 from more than nine million of its users. They ranked the largest 100 American metros by the percentage of people who had at least one account overdue, and they found that nine out of the top 10 cities with residents most likely to pay their bills on time were west of the Rocky Mountains.
There's no clear reason for the geographic trend but McFadden says the explanation may be a combination of local conditions and the economic profiles of the people who live there. "Seeing this cluster along the West Coast and in Utah, it's kind of hard to avoid the conclusion that there's a cultural factor at play there," she says.
In a previous report, LendingTree studied which region purchased the oldest used cars. The Pacific Northwest was at the top of that list, too. "There might just be a culture of financial prudence there," McFadden says.
Here are the top 10 cities where Americans pay their bills on time.
Residents of cities at the bottom of the list might be struggling with higher student loan burdens. Many of the cities where people don't pay their bills on time also have a high level of student loan debt, like Little Rock, Arkansas; Columbia, South Carolina; and Washington, D.C.
McFadden says local events could also explain some of the findings. For instance, if there was a particularly cold winter in the East, people might have had to spend more.
Out of the 100 metro areas in the study, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has the highest percentage of residents with at least one delinquent account.
Here are the 10 cities where residents are least likely to pay their bills on time.
McFadden says she was surprised by how many people pay on time. "It's really encouraging, especially if you're thinking about money and people's personal finances 10 years ago," she says. "It's really encouraging to see that the vast majority of Americans are up to date on their bills."
She says lending and debt products are "getting better" because people now have more knowledge or how credit cards and debt consolidation work. "It means that people are secure in what their borrowing and they're meeting their budgets," she says. "It means they're keeping their credit profiles in better conditions and they're taking care of themselves in that way."
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