The State Of Household Debt In America

Growing household debt in America

The Briefing

  • U.S. household debt stands at $14.56 trillion and has doubled since 2003
  • Student loan debt has expanded a colossal 550% in the same time frame

The State of Household Debt in America

American households are becoming increasingly indebted.

In 2003, total household debt was $7.23 trillion, but that figure has recently doubled to $14.56 trillion in 2020. With just under 130 million households in the country, this equates to an average of $118,000 of debt per household.

Here’s how the various forms of U.S. household debt compare.

Type of Debt 2003 (in trillions) 2020 (in trillions) % Growth
Mortgage $4.94 $10.04 +103%
Home Equity Revolving $0.24 $0.35 +45%
Auto Loan $0.64 $1.37 +137%
Credit Card $0.69 $0.82 +18%
Student Loan $0.24 $1.56 +550%
Other $0.48 $0.42 -12%
Total $7.23 $14.46 100%

Mortgages: Steep Price to Pay for Home Ownership

Making up roughly 70% of all household debt, and growing $5.1 trillion since 2003, mortgage debt now stands at $10.04 trillion.

A fundamental driver of mortgage activity is interest rates. Given the two variables tend to have an inverse relationship with one another, interest rates have a big impact on the affordability of housing. As long as U.S. interest rates remain near 200-year lows, its likely mortgages will maintain at elevated levels.

Students Continue Struggling with Student Debt

The second-largest form of debt is student loans. Although not quite the size of mortgages in raw dollars, student debt is the fastest growing as a percentage, having shot up 550% from 2003 to 2020.

The topic of debt is highly discussed in today’s political and economic climate. That’s large because debt has risen on all fronts to unprecedented levels. For example, the U.S. national debt has recently passed $27 trillion while corporate debt stands at $10.5 trillion.

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