The percentage of U.S. households holding some form of debt declined from 74% to 69% between 2000 and 2011, according to new statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
At the same time, the median amount of household debt increased over this period from $50,971 to $70,000 (in 2011 constant dollars). These statistics are part of a larger package released today that contains statistics on household wealth, asset ownership and debt.
Between 2000 and 2011, the largest increases in median debt were experienced in households with householders 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 belonged to householders 55 to 64 years old (64%) and 65 and older (more than doubling to $26,000). Furthermore, people 65 and older were the only age group whose likelihood of holding debt rose over the period (from 41% to 44%). 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 period, the composition of debt held by households also changed considerably. While the percentage holding credit card debt declined from 51% in 2000 to 38% in 2011, the percentage holding other unsecured debt, such as educational loans and medical bills not covered by insurance, rose from 11% to 19%.
"Householders under age 45 experienced the largest increases in both the likelihood of holding other debt and the amount of other debt," Vornovytskyy said.
Also released Thursday was Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011 and associated detailed tables that examine the median value of assets and percent holding assets for households in 2011, by type of asset owned and householder characteristics similar to those explored in Household Debt in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011.