Foreclosures Are A Regional, Not A National Problem--Half Are In Four States

By Michael Barone, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

A very interesting Web posting from shows the foreclosure rates in each state from December 2007 to January 2009.

What's fascinating, when you look at the numbers, is how geographically concentrated the foreclosures are in a few states. Only nine states have foreclosure rates (number of foreclosures per 5,000 housing units) above the national average. Four states have massive high foreclosure rates--the four Sand States, as some call them:

Nevada 66
California 29
Arizona 27
Florida 23

All but California have had massive population growth in the 1990s and the 2000s; all have large Hispanic populations; all have been the site of much housing speculation.

The states whose foreclosure rates are clustered around the national average of 11 per 5,000 housing units are a mixed bag.

Illinois 14
Oregon 14
Georgia 13
Michigan 13
Idaho 12
Ohio 11
Colorado 10
Utah 10

Some of these have been high-growth states (Georgia, Idaho, Colorado, Utah). Some have large or rapidly growing Hispanic populations (Illinois, Georgia, Colorado). Some are industrial states that have been hit hard by the collapse of the domestic auto companies (Michigan, Ohio).

Note the states that are not on the list. None in the Northeast ( does not include figures for the District of Columbia). Or Texas, a huge and fast-growing state with a large Hispanic population.

And I can't resist the states with the lowest foreclosure rates, with 1 or less than 1 per 5,000 housing units.

Louisiana 1
Mississippi 1
Montana 0
Nebraska 0
New Mexico 0
North Dakota 0
South Dakota 0
West Virginia 0

None of these are fast-growth states. Louisiana lost of a lot of people and Mississippi some significant number as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Only one, New Mexico, has a large Hispanic percentage--the nation's largest, in fact, but it's by and large not an immigrant population.

The regional concentration of foreclosures is apparent when you look at the state totals for foreclosures in January 2009. Nationally there were 274,399 foreclosures. In the four states with the highest foreclosure rates the numbers are:

Nevada 14,444
California 76,761
Arizona 14,674
Florida 40,770

In other words, 53 percent of the nation's foreclosures took place in states with 21 percent of the nation's population.

Now let's look at the states whose foreclosure rates cluster around the national average:

Illinois 14,447
Oregon 4,511
Georgia 9,907
Michigan 11,418
Idaho 1,512
Ohio 11,199
Colorado 4,323
Utah 1,791

These total up to 59,108 , or 22 percent of the national total, in states with 19 percent of the nation's population.

Just over half of national foreclosures were in the four Sand States. Another one-fifth were in the mixed bag of fast-growth/industrial-distress/high-Hispanic states which approximate the national average. The other 38 states, with 60 percent of the nations population, have only 25 percent of the nation's foreclosures.

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By Michael Barone