The Story Of America's Debt In 6 Easy Graphics

Despite incessant pundit parroting of the "deleveraging households" meme, America is and probably always will be, addicted to debt. If you need proof, have a look at the latest statistics on non-mortgage debt, which, thanks to America’s twin trillion-dollar bubbles, recently soared to its highest level in a decade. To wit, from HousingWire, citing Black Knight Financial: 

What we’ve found is that mortgage holders today are carrying more non-mortgage debt than at any point in the past 10 years, with an average of $25,000 per borrower. That’s $1,400 more on average than one year ago, and nearly $2,600 more than in 2011. The primary driver of this increase is a rise in auto-related debt, which accounted for 81% of the overall non-mortgage debt increase over the past four years [and] student loan debt [which] is at all-time high.

Now, Pew is out with a new study entitled "The Complex Story Of American Debt" and as you might have imagined, the non-profit found that the past three decades have witnessed an unprecedented shift in Americans’ propensity to leverage household balance sheets. This tendency has not been accompanied by a concurrent and proportional increase in household income. Here is the story of America’s debt addiction in six graphics:

More, from Pew:

One of the biggest shifts in American families’ balance sheets over the past 30 years has been the growing use of credit and households’ subsequent indebtedness. In the years leading up to the Great Recession, the average household at the middle of the wealth ladder more than doubled its mortgage debt. Although Americans’ debt has decreased since then, housing—which still is the largest liability for most households—and other debt remain higher than they were in the 1990s, and student loan obligations have continued to grow.


And this rise in debt has not corresponded to a similar increase in household income. Debt is particularly problematic for low-income households, whose liabilities grew far faster than their income in the aftermath of the recession: Their debt was equal to just one-fifth of their income in 2007, but that proportion had ballooned to half by 2013. Even middle-wealth households held over $7,000 more debt, on average, in 2013 than in 2001 and previous years.

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