"The disparity was not merely because black families earn less than white families. Our analysis of five years of court judgments from three metropolitan areas - St. Louis, Chicago and Newark - showed that even accounting for income, the rate of judgments was twice as high in mostly black neighborhoods as it was in mostly white ones."
The Color of Debt: How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods
(Thanks to tonycpsu of metafilter.com for bringing this study to people's attention.)
"Over the past year, ProPublica has investigated a little-known but pervasive shift in the way debt is collected in America: Companies now routinely use the courts to pursue millions of people over even small consumer debts. With the power granted by a court judgment, collectors can seize a chunk of a debtor’s pay. The highest rates of garnishment are among workers who earn between $25,000 and $40,000, but the numbers are nearly as high for those who earn even less.Despite their prevalence, these suits remain remarkably hidden, even to people in the communities most burdened by them."
tl;dr: The judicial system is increasingly becoming the attack dog of the corporations. As usual, poor people are the targets and poor blacks are targeted more often than whites, irrespective of their actual debt burden.
(I apologize for yet another downer of an article.)