(7-29-14) More than on third of Americans have debts and unpaid bills which have been reported to collection agencies. It's primarily because of credit cards and hospital bills.
Mortgages, auto loans and student debt are also going unpaid. Even past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency, potentially hurting credit scores and job prospects.
The study by a Washington-based think tank 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 Great Recession in the middle of 2009.