The Landscape of

Consumer Debt in the U.S

A rundown on key facts, figures and statistics around consumer debt in the U.S

Consumer debt hit to a degree never seen before in history. While consumer over-indebtedness has been in the making for many years, the situation has only lately gained considerable public notice.

This is an excellent time to learn more about the shifting dynamics of consumer debt, how households manage their debt, and the circumstances that make it a cause of financial insecurity.

Here’s a closer look at the U.S consumer debt situation and how Americans spend their money.

Key Findings

  • Total U.S. consumer debt in the U.S as of third quarter of 2021 is $15.24 trillion
  • Auto and student loans doubled after Great Recession.
  • Average consumer debt sits at $92,727.
  • Gen X carries the most consumer debt out of any generation at $140,643 on average.
  • People with more education carry higher consumer debt balances with doctorate graduates carrying the most at $97,916
  • Average consumer debt is the highest in the District of Columbia at $148,041 

Total Consumer Debt in 2021

The average American owes money in some form or another, ranging from student and auto loans to credit card debt and mortgages. According to the most recent New York Federal Reserve figures, the previous three months showed the largest increase in U.S. household debt in about 14 years.

Household debt, which includes mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, and student loans, jumped by $286 billion (1.9%) in the third quarter of 2021, increasing the total amount owed by Americans to $15.24 trillion.

Note: Although mortgages are personal investments in residental real estate, they are also considered as a type of loan.

Consumer Debt Over Time

Total consumer debt increased by $313 billion in the second quarter of 2021, a 2.1 percent increase from the first quarter. Debt is now $812 billion higher than it was at the end of 2019 and $691 billion higher than in the second quarter of 2020.

This 2.1 percent increase in total consumer debt was the highest since the fourth quarter of 2013 and the largest nominal growth since the second quarter of 2007.

Consumer Debt by Loan Type

Auto Loan

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Total Auto Loan Debt

Credit Card

0 B
Total Credit Card Debt

Mortgage

0 T
Total Mortgage Debt

Student Loan

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Total Student Loan Debt

Car and Student Loans Doubled Since the End of the Great Recession

Not all types of debt are created equal. Student loans and auto loans have more than doubled since 2010.

By 2021, the typical American household had more than $58,000 in student loan debt and $30,000 in auto loans. Over $1.5 and $1.4 trillion are due on student loans and car loans respectively.

Number of Accounts by Loan Type

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Mortgage

0 M

HE Revolving

0 M

Auto Loan

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Credit Card

The Emotional Cost of
Carrying a Debt

Americans have more personal debt than they do income

The typical American family owes $135,768 in debt. Given that the average American household’s median income is $61,372, it’s evident that debt greatly outweighs income.

Having children increases the likelihood of debt

Having children increases the chance of credit card debt: 51% of households with children have credit card debt, compared to 42% of families without children.

46% of Americans say their debt level creates stress

It’s evident that many people are concerned about their financial condition, and debt exacerbates the problem. America’s average debt is so high that 46% of Americans report feeling upset at least once a month as a result of financial worries.

Consumers with student debt carry higher debt

This type of consumer debt is accumulated by Americans at a young age. It then continues to have an influence on people throughout their working life by preventing them from accumulating wealth and increasing their total individual debt.

Average Consumer Debt in 2021

Borrowing boosts spending power. The great majority of Americans would be unable to purchase a home, a car, or even a large appliance such as a refrigerator or washing machine if credit and loans were not available. The trade-off of such spending power, though, is debt—and debt is a fact of life for most American families.

As of November 2021, consumer debt sits at $15.24 trillion, with the average American debt among consumers at $92,727.

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Average Consumer Debt

0 $

Average Household Debt

Consumer Debt Demographics

Consumer debt is not spread equally but varies by location, age, income, and education. Here’s a closer look at how American’s financial prospects differ.

01

Gen X carries the most consumer debt out of any generation

Provided that mortgages account for the largest slice and that Generation X is the most indebted generation, it comes to reason that Gen X has the most consumer debt of any generation.

One of the most conspicuous trends over the last years has been the increase in debt among younger generations. Not only did millennials and Generation Z have the highest total debt increase in 2020, but they also had the biggest increase in mortgage and personal loan debt.

02

The more educated you are, the more debt you have

The financial prospects of Americans vary greatly based on their background and education. The higher your level of education, the more debt you have. This is because a greater level of education leads to a higher level of income, and a higher level of income leads to higher levels of spending.

03

Those with higher incomes feel the crunch much more than those with lower incomes

The amount of consumer debt is strongly tied to the level of income. This means that with higher income comes higher debt. With a higher income, you can obtain a larger mortgage or auto loan. You have a greater capacity to incur debt and a better capacity to repay it.

In terms of home ownership, a lower salary equals a lower probability of even qualifying for loan debt. Although credit card qualification is less demanding, the underlying guideline remains the same.

04

The majority of states saw debt increase by as much as 5.9%

Debt reduced in certain states, but increased in others—by as much as 5.9 percent. Only two states showed growth that was in line with the national average among the states that saw a rise (0.3 percent ). The rest had growth of at least 0.6 percent, with several seeing growth of more than one percent.

On the opposite end of the scale, consumers in 15 states and Washington, D.C. witnessed a decrease in their average debt balances. The majority of states with declining balances reported a 1% or greater reduction.

Four Ways to Reduce Your Debt

01

This technique allows you to make significant progress by paying as much as possible toward your smallest amount each month.

02

Debt refinancing to a lower interest rate can save you hundreds of dollars in interest and help you pay off your debt faster. 

03

Certified credit counselors engage with creditors on your behalf to build an inexpensive debt management plan when it comes to debt repayment.

04

Keeping a spreadsheet or a visual record of your progress can remind you of what you’ve been up to as well as the goals you still want to reach.