The Look in Brief

Tennesseans in Appalachia likely to have higher debt and lower income than state average

By: - October 27, 2022 4:57 pm
(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Tennesseans living in Appalachia are more likely to have medical debt in collections and carry high-interest, subprime loans while earning significantly less than the state and national average, a report by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found.

More than half of Tennessee’s 95 counties lie within Appalachia, a region that encompasses 13 states and 26 million people. 

The report, Consumer Finances in Rural Appalachia, found that residents in these Tennessee counties have a median annual income of $41,120, compared to $50,490 in Tennessee and $61,833 in the nation.

The report also found that 28% of Tennesseans living in Appalachia have medical debt in collections, compared to 24% in Tennessee overall, and 17% across the nation. 

Appalachian residents in Tennessee are also more likely to be steered into subprime or deep subprime loans that carry high interest rates: 6% have deep subprime debt and 27% carry subprime debt – higher rates compared to state and national averages. 

Rural Appalachians with medical debt have more than double the rates of delinquency for other credit products, including mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and student loans compared to those without medical debt – data points the report did not break down by state. 

“All of these factors combined have led to disproportionately high levels of distress in rural Appalachian’s consumer financial lives,” the report concluded. 

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee.