How Many Americans Are in Debt?

According to a 2015 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, eight in 10 Americans have debt in some fashion, most often because of a mortgage. Increasingly, people are carrying debt into retirement, a new trend from previous generations, when people accumulated debt at young ages, but set goals to have it erased when they were older.

Other key findings:

  • More Americans view debt as a necessity. Some 69% of the survey respondents said they preferred not to have non-mortgage debt, but 68% said loans and credit cards had enabled them to find opportunities, such as purchases or investments.
  • Generation X and Millennial respondent were more likely to express negative views about debt than older respondents.
  • Median debt for white households ($41,500) was more than double the median debt for black and Hispanic households. The median net worth of white families ($159,400) was 13 times higher than of black families and 10 times that of Hispanic families.
  • Members of Generation X had twice the amount of mortgage debt in their 30s compared to baby boomers at the same age. One reason: Gen X’ers were in their prime home buying years during the run-up in housing prices before the Great Recession (2008), leading to higher mortgages.