American debt has increased by 200x since 1943

If you’re an adult in America, there’s a good chance that you have debt; the amount of debt you have since you established your first line of credit has probably doubled or tripled. This is a problem that we can all relate to, and I’ll be diving into American debt a little more in this post.

Overall Debt

The average debt that an American holds has increased by 200x since 1943, from ~50 dollars to ~10,300 dollars. However the population includes all individuals, even those who probably don’t hold debt (children and possibly elderly). The chart below accounts for debt holders by visually showing debt per American, debt per adult*, and debt per working adult**. Average working Americans have about $17,500 in debt.

However, these numbers don’t account for inflation either. The next chart below accounts for inflation over the years. The slope of this chart isn’t as steep (thank goodness). And this chart shows that the debt in 2015 is only 16x more than what it was in 1943 (a little better).



Mortgage Debt

Mortgage debt is represented in the chart below. You can see how the downturn in 2008 affected the amount of outstanding debt.


Student Loans

Student loan debt has been on the rise since the economic downturn in 2008. The average American is holding about $4,200 in student loan debt. This doesn’t account for those who do not hold this debt. Only about 15% of Americans (~50M) hold student debt, and they are also represented in the chart below.



Comparing Debt Growth

So, based on the charts above, we can see that debt has been on the rise. The chart below shows the cumulative year-over-year growth of debt since 2006 (student loans data only goes back this far). You can see that student loan debt is starting to slow down a bit, auto loans are on the rise, and mortgages are pretty flat.



Data sources:
Federal Reserve provides data on all outstanding debt

Population data can be found on this site

*debt per adult = ages 18+

**debt per working adult = ages 18-62