Despite recent declines, U.S. household debt is still very high relative to disposable income
February 01, 2013

SOURCES: Data from the Federal Reserve, Flow of Funds Accounts—Liabilities of Households and Nonprofit Organizations, December 2012; and Bureau of Economic Analysis, Personal Income and Its Disposition, February 2013. Compiled by PGPF.

In recent decades, many Americans have spent more than they earned. Even during booming economic years, American households have accumulated rising levels of debt. Since the 1980s, household debt has steadily grown — it grew from 65 percent of disposable income to 112 percent in 2011. With easy access to credit, lax mortgage policies, and rising college costs, debt has become a norm in American households. Americans now own over 1 billion credit cards. Even young people are now usually indebted from an early age. About two-thirds of college students graduate with debt — the average debt load for the class of 2011 was $26,600.

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Median Male Income Growth 1955-2010
Shares of Income, 1980 & 2009
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International Debt Comparison
Economic Output, 2000-2022



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