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WASHINGTON — More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.

These consumers fall behind on credit cards or hospital bills. Their mortgages, auto loans or student debt pile up, unpaid. Even past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency, potentially hurting credit scores and job prospects, said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank.

"Roughly, every third person you pass on the street is going to have debt in collections," Ratcliffe said. "It can tip employers' hiring decisions, or whether or not you get that apartment."

The study found that 35.1 percent of people with credit records had been reported to collections for debt that averaged $5,178, based on September 2013 records. The study points to a disturbing trend: The share of Americans in collections has remained relatively constant, even as the country as a whole has whittled down the size of its credit card debt since the official end of the past recession in the middle of 2009.

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  • KCSAP
    July 29, 2014 at 10:16 a.m.

    Oh my! But I thought the economy was doing so well? When will Americans learn that the Obama Hope & Change plan is not a plan, but rather slogan that only got an incompetent person elected to the presidency and is driving the entire country into the toilet. Obama is serving up a huge crap sandwich and were all being forced to eat it.

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