# American Debt Statistics – Debt by Generation, Income, Type, and More

January 20th, 2024 by
PK

In 2022, the average American household carried $126,863.50 in debt. The median American household had$31,760 in debt, and the top 10% of households ranked by debt loadhad $340,000 in debt. Not including real estate debt, the average and median American household carried$26,602.07 and \$5,200 in debt, respectively.

In this post, I'll break down American household debt averages and other statistics. We'll look at debt by generation, categories of debt, and more.

Table of Contents

## Debt Statistics in America

The Federal Reserve SCF is an extremely high-quality triennial survey providing a view of American assets and liabilities. I also use this data for our net worth statistics. However, there are some caveats, and this data doesn't necessarily match with other sources – more on those in the methodology section.

## Debt Statistics by Percentile

First up, we'll look at debt deciles. While the average and median are interesting, looking at debt distribution is a better visualization of America's debt relationship.

Below are debt statistics for all debt, then special categories excluding a primary residence and all real estate debt.

I also ran the math on the percentage of American households who have debt classified into the three groups.

• Have debt including real estate: 77.43%
• Have debt not including loans on primary home: 69.19%
• Have debt not including any real estate loans: 67.95%

## Debt by Type

The SCF has an incredibly detailed look at all types of assets and debts.

This section looks at some of those debt types at the aggregate level – you can find the definitions in the Federal Reserve's flowchart. The final row shows the percentage of American households who hold that type of debt.

I've also done a deeper dive on a few types of debt. Learn more about:

## Debt by Generation

Age – just as it does with income – affects Americans' debt. Here's how debt breaks down when you tally up the average and quartile breakpoints for American households by generation.

Here's how I broke down the generations:

• Millennial (26-40 years old, approximately born 1982-1996)
• Gen X (41-57, approximately born 1965-1981)
• Baby Boomer (58-77, approximately born 1945-1964)
• Silent (78-94, approximately born 1928-1944)

## Debt by Income Bracket

Debt is also tied to income – because debt can both fuel income... and allow a household to take on more debt.

The Fed broke down the income brackets in this manner, and I'm matching their tradition. This breakdown better groups "lookalike" brackets than something like deciles or quartiles. The variable is INCPCTLECAT, if you'd like to reproduce my data.

## American Debt Overview Methodology

All the stats in this post come from the Federal Reserve SCF's 2022 survey. I list statistics as 'households', but technically we're looking at PEUs or Primary Economic Units:

"the PEU consists of an economically dominant single individual or couple (married or living as partners) in a household and all other individuals in the household who are financially interdependent with that individual or couple. For example, in the case of a household composed of a married couple who own their home, a minor child, a dependent adult child, and a financially independent parent of one of the members of the couple, the PEU would be the couple and the two children. Summary information is collected at the end of the interview for all household members who are not included in the PEU. The only variables collected separately for the respondent and the spouse or partner of the respondent are those concerning employment, pension, and demographic characteristics. The great majority of the time, the PEU and the household are identical."

Federal Reserve SCF Data Codebook, 2022

Survey design (including PEUs) limits what we can find, too, especially for student loan debt – how do you define the PEU of a shared dorm?

Remember, the SCF is a survey of consumers. Surveyers ask consumers what they believe they owe in debt. Compared to the FRB's student loan data, the SCF might be around half a trillion dollars short or so... at least from what creditors believe they're owed. The numbers are more-than-directionally accurate; the broader trends and distributions are probably good enough to project to the 'actual' distribution, if not exact numbers.

## Previous debt statistics

Here are the past editions of this post:

### PK

PK started DQYDJ in 2009 to research and discuss finance and investing and help answer financial questions. He's expanded DQYDJ to build visualizations, calculators, and interactive tools.

PK lives in New Hampshire with his wife, kids, and dog.

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