27 Consumer Debt Statistics & Facts

The latest Federal Reserve consumer debt statistics show that Americans owe over $4 trillion in non-mortgage debts. Student loans, auto loans, payday loans, and credit card balances are among the factors that affect the total consumer debt.

Over the past decades, global individual debt has been reaching record-high levels on account of increased income coupled with higher living costs. The situation is especially grave in the United States with Americans owing more money than ever before.

So, let’s dive deeper into the personal debt crisis and learn more about the latest trends. We’ve also provided the answers to the most popular US personal debt FAQs.

 

Consumer Debt Statistics (Editor’s Choice)

  • The United States consumer debt in early 2020 was $4.22 trillion.
  • Student debt contributes about $1.4 trillion to the total US consumer debt.
  • 69% of Americans believe debt is a necessity.
  • 53% of people in the US consider paying off personal debt a top priority.
  • 88.8% of couples with children are indebted.
  • The average American consumer debt is around $38,000.
  • Generation X carries the highest average personal debt of about $39,000.

 

Current Consumer Debt Statistics

 

1. The total outstanding consumer debt in the US in February 2020 was over $4 trillion.

The latest Federal Reserve reports set the total American outstanding individual debt at $4.22 trillion. This figure is 6.4% higher when compared to the amount in the prior-year period These official stats show that outstanding consumer credit has been continually growing over the past few months. In Q4 of 2019, the total amount owed by American consumers was $4.19 trillion, as suggested by personal debt statistics. Back in 2017, the total outstanding United States consumer debt was the last time under $4 trillion, i.e., $3.82 trillion.

(Federal Reserve)

 

2. Nonrevolving debt contributed about 75% of the total American outstanding individual debt.

A total of $3.12 trillion of the US consumer debt is nonrevolving debt. This figure has increased by 7.0% in the past 12 months. It’s interesting to note that in Q4 2018 and Q1 2019, the revolving debt dropped under $3 trillion. Still, it’s been over the threshold ever since, according to current consumer debt statistics.

About $1.09 trillion of the $4.20 trillion consumer debt is revolving. As the average credit card debt stats show, American’s credit balances have been continuously growing. In the period between February 2018 and February 2019, the reports note an increase of 4.6%.

(Federal Reserve)

 

3. Almost 70% of Americans consider borrowing money a necessity.

Among the most interesting personal debt facts is how Americans perceive debt. Namely, 69% responded that borrowing money is a necessity, despite preferring not to carry debt. A similar share of the participants (68%) said that credit cards and loans expanded their opportunities in life.

Also, it’s amusing to note that younger generations are adverse towards debt, even though they carry it the most. People are also starting to separate good debt from bad debt, with a growing number of Americans realizing how some types of debt can help them build a good credit score, for example.

(Pew Research Center)

 

4. Student debt makes up for $1.4 trillion of the US consumer debt.

Official student loan statistics in the US show that the total education debt in the country in 2017 was $1.4 trillion. The latest US consumer debt statistics reveal that the figure has already surpassed $1.5 trillion in 2020. Another shocking fact is that this type of American consumer debt increases by $2,858 every second. So, college debt remains a serious issue stateside.

(Debt)

 

5. People with student debt carry higher debt and accumulate wealth more slowly than the rest.

Americans generate this type of consumer debt early in their lives. It then proceeds to impact them throughout their working lives by holding back their wealth accumulation and boosting their total individual debt. A PRC study in 2014 on debt statistics showed something curious. Namely, people without student debt had a seven times greater wealth than those with college loans.

On average, young and college-educated households without college debt have a median net worth of $64,700. The same families but with student debt had a much lower median net worth at $8,700. They, however, led the way in median total indebtedness of $137,010. Young American households without education debt had a much lower median total indebtedness of $73,250.

(Pew Research Center)

 

6. Student debtors are more likely to acquire other types of consumer debt.

Debt stats seem to show that one type of debt attracts the rest. Student debtors are especially affected as they are more likely to generate other types of debt. About 43% of households with college debt carried auto debt, too, compared to 27% of households without education debt.

The situation is even more drastic when comparing credit card balances. Around 60% of households with student loans carried such balances as opposed to only 39% of households without college debt.

(Pew Research Center)

 

7. The reduction of personal debt was a priority for 53% of Americans in 2018.

The Planning & Progress American debt statistics indicate that more than half of debtors consider dealing with debt their top priority. This comes as no surprise considering that 20% of Americans spend between 50% and 100% of their income on debt repayments. This, naturally, limits their wealth generation prospects and affects all areas of their lives.

It’s interesting to note that paying off debt was a different priority among different generations. Namely, among Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers 49%, 55%, and 53%, respectively, responded paying off owed balances was crucial.

(Northwestern Mutual)

 

8. Americans owe, on average, approximately $38,000 on consumer expenses.

Northwestern Mutual discovered that the average personal debt in 2018 had jumped for $1,000 yea-on-year. Consumer credit statistics reveal that Americans owed an average of $37,000 in 2017. These figures show that even though paying off debt is a priority among US consumers, their personal indebtedness keeps growing. Plus, the percentage of people that carry no debt has dropped to 23% from 27% in 2017. Meaning, not only the US personal debt is growing, but also more Americans have it.

(Northwestern Mutual)

 

9. About one-third of Americans are likely to accumulate average consumer debt between $5,000 and $25,000.

More precisely, 33% of people in the US have high chances of accumulating any type of debt. Only 17% of them, by contrast, are likely to accumulate personal savings, as suggested by debt stats. This makes sense with 20% spending at least half of their income to pay off amounts they owe. The same study by Northwestern Mutual established that 12% of Americans believe they will carry debt throughout their entire lives.

(Northwestern Mutual)

 

10. In 2018, credit card debt represented one-fourth of all US personal debt.

About 25% of the US consumer debt in 2018 came from credit card balances. This segment jumped by 6% from 19% in 2017, reveal the consumer credit statistics. Education debt and car loans had respective contributions of 6% and 7%.

Among Millennials aged 18-24, student debt represented a much more significant share of their personal indebtedness at 28%. The rest of the money goes to dining and nightlife (15%), personal care and clothing (12%), and hobbies (13%).

(Northwestern Mutual)

 

11. The ratio of debt payments to household income decreased between 2001 and 2016.

Statista’s figures reveal that the average American debt-to-income ratio peaked at 14.7% in 2010. In 2001, the ratio was lower 12.7% to reach its lowest level at 10.9% in 2016. In both 2014 and 2017, this ratio was over the 14% threshold, i.e., 14.5% and 14.6%, respectively. The official consumer debt statistics show that it started decreasing from 2010 onwards, and stood at 12.1% in 2013.

(Statista)

 

12. Student loan debt noted the highest jump in the 2009-2019 period compared to other debts.

Namely, this type of consumer debt increased by a shocking 113% over the span of a decade. Auto loans come next with a significant jump of 81%. Personal loans among Americans increased by 29%, while the total credit card debt jumped by 18%. Even the total amount owed on retail cards increased by 51%.

The only segment that decreased between 2009 and 2019 was HELOC (home equity line of credit), and its change was -42%. These figures are among the most worrisome personal debt facts, especially the ones regarding student loan balances.

(Experian)

 

13. HELOC was the highest average balance in 2019 among all types of consumer debt.

Even though the change in the average HELOC balance in the period between 2009-2019 was -13%, this sector represented the highest average balance. American consumers owed, on average, $45,191 on this type of debt.

Student loans contributed to the average amount owed with $35,620 and personal loans with $16,259. Their respective consumer debt by year change in average balance was 73% and -12%, show the latest personal debt statistics. The average car loan balance increased by 25% from $15,387 in 2009 to $19,231 in 2019.

(Experian)

 

14. Almost 90% of couples with children carry some type of consumer debt.

More precisely, 88.8% of couples with at least one child are indebted. Single parents with children are in a similar situation, with about 80.1% carrying debt. Families without children, on average, carry less debt due to the lack of extra child-related expenses.

So, around 73.6% of singles with children and 76.7% of couples without children owe money. As for singles without children and over 55, about 58.8% of people in this group are indebted.

(Statista)

 

 

US Consumer Debt Statistics by Credit Score

 

15. People with poor credit generally have lower total consumer debt.

Experian established that in 2019 people with very poor credit (100-579) owe less money. Naturally, this makes sense since their spending power is lower. Americans from this group owe, on average, $58,633 for HELOC and $32,690 for student loans. Regarding credit card, auto, and personal loan balances, these are much lower at $3,446, $16,435, and $6,787.

(Experian)

 

16. Americans with good and exceptional credit scores owe the most.

Debt statistics nevertheless reveal that their debt structure is different compared to people with bad and poor credit. Student loans and HELOC play a significant role in the two groups. Those with very good credit (740—799) owed $37,851 for education and $49,026 for HELOC.

Americans with exceptional credit (800+) carried both lower average college debt ($32,308) and lower HELOC debt ($36,470). Both groups had a significant personal loan balance of $23,951 and $28,864. Finally, consumer debt statistics show that auto loans contributed towards their total average amount owed with $19,690 and $18,011, respectively.

(Experian)

 

17. Credit card debt is the highest among people with a good credit score.

While credit utilization is a major credit score factor, the credit score itself plays a role in banks establishing your credit limit. So, it makes sense that those with a high FICO score have higher spending limits and, therefore, carry higher credit card balance.

On average, the credit card debt of people with exceptional and very good scores was respective $3,616 and $6,051. American debt statistics show that those with a good score owed, on average, $9,712. Finally, Americans with fair and very poor FICO ratings owed $6,489 and $3,446, respectively, in average credit card balance.

(Experian)

 

18. HELOC makes for most of the total consumer debt of Americans, regardless of their credit score.

When it comes to HELOC debt as part of Americans’ total consumer debt, it seems that the credit score doesn’t matter much. Every group here has an average HELOC debt of over $35,000, consumer credit statistics reveal.

Still, as the FICO rating drops, the HELOC balances grow. The lowest average amount owed ($36,470) is carried by those with an exceptional credit score. The highest average HELOC debt ($58,633), in contrast, was noted among those with a very poor rating.

(Experian)

 

 

Personal Debt Statistics by Age and Generation

 

19. Generation X carries the highest average personal debt compared to Millennials and Baby Boomers.

In 2018, people from Generation X owed $39,000 on average. Millennials and Baby Boomers, in contrast, carried average debt by age of $36,000 each. Please note that the amounts were rounded up to the closest $1,000 by Northwestern Mutual.

When it comes to who spends the most on paying off debt, the figures are similar. Here, Baby Boomers are in the lead with spending an average of 35% of their income on balances they owe. Millennials and Generation X are right behind with 34% each, according to American debt statistics.

(Northwestern Mutual)

 

20. Millennials owe the most in education loans, while credit card balances lead among Generation X and Baby Boomers.

The primary sources of debt vary depending on the generation. So, about 21% of personal indebtedness among Millennials is college debt. Credit card balances, car loans, and educational expenses for family members contribute 20%, 6%, and 7%, respectively. About 26% of Millennials owed nothing in 2018.

Generation X and Baby Boomers had drastically different sources of debt, as indicated by national consumer debt statistics. Credit card balances, car loans, and student loans were the top three debt contributors for Gen X with 29%, 7%, and 7%. Among Baby Boomers, most amounts owed were due to credit cards (25%), car loans (8%), and credit lines (5%). Only 13% of Generation X Americans claimed to carry no debt, while 28% of Baby Boomers were debt-free in 2018.

(Northwestern Mutual)

 

21. Gen X had the highest median credit card debt in 2014.

Generation X turned out to be the generation with the highest median credit card balance of $5,000. This was established in a 2014 research on personal debt statistics conducted by PRC. The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Millennials carried a median credit card debt of $2,700, $4,000, and $2,500, respectively. The total median credit card balance was about $3,800 and much lower than the other types of consumer debt.

(Pew Research Center)

 

22. Baby Boomers and Generation X had the same median car debt of $14,000 in 2014.

Regarding car loans, Baby Boomer and Gen X were in the lead in 2014, per the PRC consumer debt statistics. Both generations owed a median amount of $14,000 on this type of consumer debt. Here, the Silent Generation and Millennials also owed the same median debt of $12,000. The total median car loan debt for all generations was at $13,000.

(Pew Research Center)

 

23. Generation X and Millennials owed the highest median amount of money on education loans.

Student loans, per the current consumer debt statistics, represent a considerable share of the total US personal debt. In 2014, Gen X and Millennials owed the most in this category. Namely, both generations carried a median college debt of $20,000.

Baby Boomers held the second spot with a median owed amount of $19,000. Finally, the Silent Generation owed only $10,000, which makes sense as they had the most time to pay their balances off. Still, the total median student loan debt in 2014 was hefty $20,000.

(Pew Research Center)

 

 

National Consumer Debt Statistics by Race

 

24. White American families owe more money but also have more wealth compared to African American and Hispanic households.

About 80% of all White American households and 78% of families with income less than $40,000 carried debt. The median total debt of these families was $41,500 and $8,660, respectively. The difference in median total assets was equally drastic at $275,000 and $54,250. The median total net worth of all White American families was $159,400, the latest US consumer debt statistics show. White American households with income under $40,000, in contrast, were worth about $22,200.

(Pew Research Center)

 

25. African American families have a much lower median total debt.

Turning to African American households, 82% of all and 78% of those making under $40,000 were indebted. Their median total debt was respective $18,950 and $7,120, highlighting a huge difference when compared to White American households.

Regarding median total assets, the situation is equally different, debt statistics reveal. All families had about $40,000 and families making under $40,000 had around $3,025 in assets. The median net worth of African American households is lower at $6,000 (all) and $0 (income less than $40,000).

(Pew Research Center)

 

26. In 2014, Hispanic households in the US noted the highest percentage of indebtedness.

Around 83% of all Hispanic households in America and 74% of families with an income of less than $40,000 carried debt. The total median amounts these Hispanic families owed in 2014, per the debt stats, were $19,875 and $3,332.

These figures corresponded with the median total assets and the median total net worth. Both aspects were higher than those of African American families and lower than those among White American households. Regarding total assets, the figures were $80,875 and $7,800. As for the total net worth, PRC discovered a median value of $16,300 and $2,110.

(Pew Research Center)

 

27. Over 50% of African Americans and Hispanics regret generating individual debt to pay for education.

PRC stated in their personal debt facts that respective 51% and 52% of African Americans and Hispanics regretted amassing college debt. They responded that, instead, they would find a different way to pay for their education rather than getting college loans.

Only 31% of White Americans shared this opinion. About 44% of White Americans responded that they would do everything the same when it comes to this type of consumer debt. Only 20% of African Americans and 24% of Hispanics had this positive outlook regarding student loans, consumer debt statistics show.

(Pew Research Center)

 

FAQs

 

What is consumer debt?

Consumer debt definition describes that as all personal debt generated for purchasing various goods or services. It is part of the total household debt, which also includes mortgages. Some common types of consumer debt are student loans, credit card debt, auto loans, and payday loans.

Consumer debt is categorized into revolving and nonrevolving. The first category includes balances that you pay off frequently, such as credit card payments. Nonrevolving debt, by contrast, is long-term and more significant, like education or car loans. National consumer debt statistics show that nonrevolving balances make the biggest share of personal debt.

It’s interesting to note that consumer debt doesn’t come near the mortgage debt. The latter, in fact, contributes the most towards the average household debt in the US.

 

How is consumer debt different today than in the past?

Over the years, both the living costs and income drastically increased. Today, therefore, we notice record-high consumer debt levels in the United States and the rest of the world. Also, as people’s priorities and spending habits change, the type and size of the debt evolve as well.

With more and more Americans attending college, there’s a distinct jump in education debt. In the past few years, the use of credit cards has soared, increasing the revolving consumer debt by year too.

 

What type of consumer debt is the largest in the United States?

Student loans and credit card debt contribute equally to the total consumer debt of Americans. Each of these categories notes amounts owed of over $1.4 trillion. Auto loans come right up next with a total debt of over $1.3 trillion.

 

What is the number one reason why consumers default on their debts?

Excessive use of credit is established as the primary reason why people fail to cover their due payments on time. Sometimes, however, the reason can be an unexpected loss of income or cash emergencies. Still, spending more than one can afford remains the main culprit for defaulting on debt.

 

What is the average consumer debt?

The average personal debt was around $38,000 in 2018. This figure has been growing over the years with credit card debt and student loan debt hitting record-highs. In 2017, the average consumer debt in the US was about $37,000.

 

What percentage of the population is in debt?

About 80% of the population carries some kind of personal debt. Put differently, eight people out of 10 owe money for various reasons. Credit cards and education are the two most common types of consumer debt among Americans.

 

What percentage of America is debt-free?

Only two out of ten Americans carry no debt. Meaning, only 20% of the US population is debt-free, while the vast majority struggles with various debts. Stats show that people without indebtedness generate personal wealth faster and are better prepared for cash emergencies.

 

Final Thoughts

Americans recorded record-high consumer debt of $4.22 trillion in 2020. It seems that as the purchasing power and living costs are growing, people in the USA aren’t afraid to amass debt. From student loans to credit card balances, consumer debt statistics show that the amount Americans owe just keeps growing.

Still, owing money is a serious issue and limits people’s wealth-building potential. So, it’s essential to find a balance between your spending and earning to avoid drowning in debt. This way, you can focus on increasing your assets.

 

References: Federal Reserve, Debt, Pew Research Center, Northwestern Mutual, Statista, Experian, Statista, Northwestern Mutual, Pew Research Center

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