Household Debt Increases
to $12 Trillion

Growth of student loans exceeds increase in mortgage, car, and credit card debt


Household debt increased by $51 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, and now totals $12.12 trillion, or more than $40,000 per household, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

This level of debt is 4.4 percent shy of the record-high household debt of $12.68 trillion seen in 2008.

Mortgage debt represents the largest share of overall household debt. In the fourth quarter of 2015, however, most of the growth of the $51 billion increase came from student loan debt.

The majority of the $12 trillion in household debt comes from mortgage debt, which totaled $8.25 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Student loans were the next largest contributor at $1.23 trillion, followed by auto loans at $1.06 trillion, then credit card debt at $733 billion, and finally home equity lines of credit at $487 billion.

While mortgage balances contribute to 68 percent of the $12.12 trillion in total household debt, they declined by $11 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Student loan debt was the biggest driver of growth in household debt, increasing by $29 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015. Of the student loan debt incurred in the last three months of 2015, 11.5 percent was 90 days past due or in default.

The remainder of the debt increase seen in the fourth quarter came from credit card debt and auto-loan debt, which contributed $19 billion each.

"Non-housing debt balances have been rising, but the same cannot be said for mortgages," said Andrew Haughwout, senior vice president at the New York Fed. "Mortgages are being paid down faster, helping to offset the generally rising volume of originations."

According to the New York Fed, debt per capita in the United States exceeds $40,000 per household. Of the states the report reviewed, California, New Jersey, New York, Nevada and Arizona had higher household debt per capita than the nation’s average, while Texas, Florida Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Florida had a lower household debt per capita than the U.S. average.

Ali Meyer

Ali Meyer   Email Ali | Full Bio | RSS
Ali Meyer is a staff writer with the Washington Free Beacon covering economic issues that expose government waste, fraud, and abuse. Prior to the Free Beacon, she was a multimedia reporter with where her work appeared on outlets such as Drudge Report and Fox News. She also interned with the Heritage Foundation and Pacific Research Institute. Her Twitter handle is @DJAliMeyer, and her email address is

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