There are fewer households with debt, but those that still carry financial burdens of have more of it.
That was a primary finding of a U.S. Census Bureau look at household debt from 2000 to 2011 in a just-released report.
The percentage of U.S. households carrying some form of debt dropped from 74 percent to 69 percent between 2000 and 2011, according to new statistics.
However, the median amount of household debt increased over this period from $50,971 to $70,000 (in 2011 constant dollars).
Between 2000 and 2011, the largest increases in median debt were seen among heads of households age 35 to 44 (to $108,000), 45 to 54 (to $86,500) and 55 to 64 (to $70,000).
However, the largest percentage increases in debt were among households with individuals 55 to 64 years old (64 percent) and 65 and older (more than doubling to $26,000).
Moreover, those 65 and older were the only age group whose likelihood of holding debt rose over the period (from 41 percent to 44 percent). The opposite pattern was observed for those under 65.
“Those 65 and over became more likely to hold debt against their homes, and their median housing debt increased, as well, which explains a significant portion of the increase in their overall debt between 2000 and 2011,” Census Bureau economist Marina Vornovytskyy said.
During the 2000-2011 period, the composition of household debt also changed considerably.
While the percentage holding credit card debt declined from 51 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2011, the percentage holding other unsecured debt, such as educational loans and medical bills not covered by insurance, rose from 11 percent to 19 percent.
“Householders under age 45 experienced the largest increases in both the likelihood of holding other debt and the amount of other debt,” Vornovytskyy said.