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Originally published: 2013-03-30 15:38:13
Last modified: 2013-04-01 10:42:03

Census: Fewer US households have debt

by Anna Oakes

Fewer American households held some form of debt in 2011 than in 2000, but during the same time period the median amount of household debt increased 37 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau reported March 21.

Census statistics reveal that the percentage of U.S. households in debt declined from 74 percent to 69 percent from 2000 to 2011, but the median household debt jumped from $50,971 to $70,000.

The data comes from the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation.

Those younger than 65 saw the largest growth in household debt, with numbers rising to $108,000 for 35- to 44-year-olds, $86,500 for 45- to 54-year-olds and $70,000 for 55- to 64-year-olds.

However, people 65 and older were the only age group whose likelihood of holding debt rose during the period noted. The opposite pattern was observed for those younger than 65.

"The composition of debt held by households also changed considerably," according to the bureau.

While the percentage of households holding credit card debt declined from 51 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2011, the percentage holding other forms of unsecured debt such as student loans and medical bills, grew 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," said Marina Vornovytskyy, Census Bureau economist, in a statement.

Home equity is the driving factor behind significant changes in median net worth over the past decade, Census economists say.
Median net worth rose from $81,821 in 2000 to $106,585 in 2005, before declining to $68,828 in 2011, the bureau said. But median net worth excluding home equity "showed no statistically significant change between 2000 and 2005 and decreased by $3,815 (or 18 percent) between 2005 and 2011."

For more statistics on household debt and wealth in the United States, visit

Buried in debt? Help is available
If you feel overwhelmed by debt obligations or simply could use a hand managing your bills, a number of community resources exist to help you get back on track.

OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling is a private nonprofit, community-supported, United Way agency. Based in Asheville, the agency's service area includes Watauga County. The organization helps people manage their money and credit through education programs, individual counseling appointments and debt management programs. The organization has partnered with local organizations to bring services to the Boone area in the past.
For more information, call (800) 737-5485 or visit

WAMY Community Action, based in Boone, offers a financial literacy program, including financial education classes and a credit-building loan program. For more information, contact Catherine Bare at (828) 264-2421.

Northwestern Regional Housing Authority
The Northwestern Regional Housing Authority in Boone can assist clients who may be facing foreclosure with budget counseling, guiding their conversations with the bank, document preparation and arranging for assistance from the N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund.
For more information, call (828) 264-6683.