Respect Poverty

US households’ debt rises to $16.5 trillion

A recent NerdWallet study found the average household owes more than $165,000 in debt.

Story at a glance


  • A new NerdWallet study found that the U.S. households have reached a total debt of $16.5 trillion, a 7.65 percent increase from the year before.  

  •   That number means the that the average U.S. household owes more than $165,000 in debt.  

  • While the average student loan debt is down, mortgages, auto loans, and overall debt are up.  

The average U.S. household owes more than $165,000 in debt, according to a new NerdWallet study.  

That amount of average household debt has pushed the national total to $16.5 trillion, a 7.65 percent increase from a year before.  

Study crafters also found that the credit card balances carried from month to month have gone up over the past year, now totaling roughly $460 billion.  


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Mortgages, auto loans and overall debt also went up over the past 12 months, meanwhile, student loan amounts dropped a bit, according to the study.  

The average U.S. household owed about $222,000 in mortgages, $17,000 in credit card debt as well as $29,000 in auto loans last year.  

“Credit card debt is often thought to be the result of frivolous spending, but for many Americans, that’s just not true,” said Sara Rathner, a NerdWallet credit cards expert. “Consumers are feeling the squeeze of higher prices and interest rates, and paychecks just aren’t keeping up. That’s forcing many to make tough decisions, like going into debt to pay for necessities.” 

NerdWallet study crafters found that the average U.S. household owed $58,000 in student loans, a 0.6 decrease from the year before.  

Study crafters used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to analyze household debt has shifted over the last year.  

NerdWallet also surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults to gauge how people about their debt and future finances. The findings of the poll were used in the study released Tuesday.  

Household debt has increased over the past year across the U.S. in part because the cost of living is outpacing income.  

According to the study, the median household income last year grew by just 4 percent while the overall cost of living went up by 8 percent.