Americans Have $17 Trillion of Debt! And 14 Other Surprising Debt Facts You Probably Don’t Know

Buckle up for a wild ride through the hidden world of American debt.
Updated July 1, 2023
Fact checked
young woman stressed by calculating expenses on table

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Amidst rising prices and economic uncertainty, America’s debt has hit an all-time high. Consumer debt, which includes borrowing across all categories, recently topped a staggering $17 trillion during the first quarter of 2023.

Here are 14 surprising facts you didn’t know about debt in the U.S. that could help you learn to crush your debt.

If you have more than $10,000 in debt from credit cards, medical bills, collections, or personal loans, this company might be able to assist you in consolidating your debt into one low monthly payment.

The average credit card debt balance is $5,910

Shisu_ka/Adobe man sitting at floor holding different cards with utility bills scattered over floor

Credit card debt is a burden on many Americans’ finances. A recent Experian study found that the average balance is $5,910. This sobering statistic highlights the prevalence of credit card debt nationwide.

You should always try to pay your card's entire balance each month. However, if you find yourself in credit card debt, there are methods to tackle it, like applying for a balance transfer card or personal loan.

Personal loan debt increased by 18% between 2021 and 2022

Wayhome Studio/Adobe family having debt problems

In 2022, personal loan balances increased more than any other consumer debt type. Personal loans are convenient and flexible, whether you’re consolidating debt, funding home improvements, or covering unexpected medical expenses.

However, it's important to approach them responsibly and consider factors like interest rates and repayment terms to ensure they are the best choice for your financial situation.

Delinquencies are up for most types of debt

Creative Digital Art/Adobe late payment notice on credit card bill34

Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicates that more people are struggling to pay bills on time.

A budget can help you track expenses and pay bills on time. You should also prioritize debt repayment and consider auto-payments to avoid missed deadlines.

Maintaining an emergency fund can also provide a safety net for unexpected expenses.

Midwesterners have the lowest credit card debt

nejdetduzen/Adobe Madison City street view in Wisconsin of USA

If you live in the Midwest, you may have an easier time avoiding credit card debt. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Midwest states have the lowest credit card debt in the country.

Many possible explanations exist, but these states typically have strong economies and lower living costs. The people are also known for their frugality, meaning they’re less likely to take on credit card debt.

High household income states have more credit card debt

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Baltimore Maryland USA Skyline

The Chamber of Commerce also found the states with the highest average household income tend to have more credit card debt.

Maryland and Alaska, for example, had some of the country’s highest average credit card debt despite having larger incomes.

Top-income states typically also have higher living costs, making it more difficult for people to make ends meet.

Families with four or more children have 51% more debt

deagreez/Adobe mom makes selfie picture photo with big family for her vlog

According to Experian, families with four or more children carry 51% more debt than the national average. As family size decreases, so does the average debt balance.

These findings highlight larger families' financial challenges, who often encounter increased expenses related to childcare, education, and everyday living.

Larger families must prioritize budgeting, saving, and managing debt to ensure financial stability.

Overall debt increased in 2022, regardless of credit score couple managing the debt

Typically, individuals with good or excellent credit scores can finance more debt, leading to more significant increases in their debt balances.

However, in 2022, average debt balances grew for people in all credit score ranges, indicating a widespread pattern of increased borrowing and debt accumulation.

New foreclosures remained low at the beginning of 2023

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe woman holding document with foreclosure

Following a similar trend observed in 2022, foreclosures remained low in the first quarter of 2023. This shows that despite rising debt levels, people continue to pay their mortgages despite financial difficulties.

To prevent financial hardship and maintain a secure housing situation, it's crucial to pay down debt, track spending, and pay bills on time.

Credit card debt stayed the same in the first quarter of 2023

Farknot Architect/Adobe woman holding various cards in hand choosing one for payment

Usually, consumers charge celebrations and gifts to credit cards over the holidays. There's typically a decrease in credit card debt at the beginning of the year as people pay down those purchases.

While this sounds like good news, it may not be a good sign. The debt remaining the same during the first quarter of the year indicates that cardholders may be struggling to pay off their balances.

50 out of the 75 largest American cities have a deficit

TTstudio/Adobe tall skyscrapers in new york city with cloudy sky during day time

Local governments often issue municipal bonds to fund public works. While municipal debt is common, the deficit in many large cities is concerning.

New York City, for example, currently faces $56,900 in municipal debt per taxpayer. Although its debt has decreased in recent years, cities like New Orleans and Portland continue to see deficits grow.

Municipal debt may jeopardize workers' pensions when cities are under financial strain.

Gen Z took on 25% more debt between 2021 and 2022

Jacob Lund/Adobe cheerful gen z friends having fun together

Taking on 25% more debt may sound alarming, but according to Experion, it aligns with previous generations.

The oldest of Generation Z turned 25 last year, so many are taking on new debt responsibilities like student loans, car payments, and mortgages.

Although they saw a rise in credit card debt, the substantial increase in overall debt can be attributed to simply hitting the milestones associated with adulthood.

Older generations' debt balances are leveling off

Jelena/Adobe middle-aged man reading unexpected news in paper document

As younger generations accumulate more debt, older generations’ debt balances are leveling off.

The amount of debt people carry usually peaks when they reach middle age. As they get older, they begin to pay that debt off, and their balances decrease.

This trend is in line with the flattening of debt that we are seeing now with older generations as many begin to tackle their debt balances.

Gen Z has the lowest average credit card balances

Seventyfour/Adobe creative young people using laptop during meeting

In 2022, Gen Z had an average credit card balance of $2,854 — lower than other generations. The Silent Generation trailed closely behind with the next lowest average balance of $3,316.

Although their balances were lower, Gen Z’s credit card debt increased by 25.1% between 2021 and 2022. Millennials also saw a similar increase of 23.4%, but their balances were nearly double Gen Z’s.

High inflation and interest rates contributed to more debt

Deemerwha studio/Adobe hand holding inflation label over pennies on table

In recent years, there's been a noticeable surge in debt levels. This upward trend can be attributed to the rise in inflation and interest rates.

Everyday necessities, like food and gas, have skyrocketed in cost since the beginning of the pandemic. Soaring home prices have also resulted in higher mortgage balances.

As a result, individuals are grappling with increased debt from daily expenses and larger financial commitments.

Bottom line

Pormezz/Adobe sad woman looking at many credit cards

While the news of America’s debt hitting an all-time high is disconcerting, it may catalyze positive change. It prompts us to reflect on our financial habits to ensure we borrow and spend money responsibly and avoid throwing money away.

By individually committing to awareness and education about our finances, we can navigate our debt and work toward a brighter future.

National Debt Relief Benefits

  • No upfront fees
  • One-on-one evaluation with a debt counseling expert
  • For people with $7,500 in unsecured debts and up

Author Details

Carley Clark Carley Clark is a personal finance writer from Michigan. She graduated from Spring Arbor University with a bachelor's degree in business. After graduation, she worked in finance as a revenue auditor at a casino. Carley strives to write informative content that will help readers meet their financial goals.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt