Study: 8 in 10 Americans saddled with some form of debt

Findings suggest younger generations more wary of borrowing

Eight in 10 Americans walk around with some form of debt burden, according to new research from the Pew Charitable Trusts that takes a close overall look at the liabilities on families' balance sheets.

Our relationship with debt is varied and changes with age, according to the study titled "The Complex State of American Debt," released in July 2015.

Among its findings:

  • Mortgage debt is the most common form of debt, carried by 44 percent of all Americans, with the median debt at $103,000. Gen Xers have the highest mortgage debt, in part because of when many of them made their purchases during the run-up of housing prices before the Great Recession.
  • After mortgage debt, the most common debts are unpaid credit card balances (39 percent), car loans (37 percent) and student loans (21 percent).
  • The younger generations (Generation X and millennials) are more likely to have debt, with more than 4 in 10 millennials beginning their lives with student debt. But an increasing number of those in the older generations (baby boomers and the silent generation) are carrying debt into retirement. 

Overall, nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) say debt is a necessity, even if they prefer not to have it.

A similar number (68 percent) agree with the statement that "loans and credit cards have expanded my opportunities." However, that attitude of seeing debt in a positive light may be shifting. Millennials and Gen Xers were significantly less likely to say debt has expanded their opportunities.  

See related: Household debt report: Card balances highest since 2010

To use the graphic on your site, use the following code:

 <center><a href=""><img alt=" infographic: American generations and their debts" border="0" src="" /></a> </center>

Join the discussion
We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.

Weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, advice, articles and tips delivered to your inbox. It's FREE.

Updated: 02-21-2019