Consumer Debt

March 2, 2007 • Volume 17, Issue 9
Are Americans dangerously overstretched?
By Barbara Mantel

Introduction

Sign of the times in Miami: Delinquencies and foreclosures are on the rise nationwide because of rising interest rates and a stagnant housing market.  (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)
Sign of the times in Miami: Delinquencies and foreclosures are on the rise nationwide because of rising interest rates and a stagnant housing market. (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

Despite an economic recovery in its sixth year, more American households are in debt now than at any point in the past 15 years, particularly the middle class. In fact, in the past several years household debt has risen faster than family income and, on average, exceeds annual income for the first time since the Federal Reserve started surveying consumer finances in the early 1980s. The explosion in debt — fueled largely by mortgage lending on residential housing that rose in value and then leveled off or declined — has some economists worrying that the next economic recession will be devastating to families that already owe so much. Others complain that state and federal governments are not protecting consumers from abusive credit card and payday-lending practices. But proponents of the expansion in consumer credit say it has helped to democratize homeownership and fuel the current economic expansion.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Credit and Consumer Debt
Jul. 20, 2012  Debt Collectors
May 17, 2011  Future of the Euro
Oct. 10, 2008  Regulating Credit Cards
May 09, 2008  Financial Crisis
Mar. 02, 2007  Consumer Debt
May 26, 2006  Teen Spending
Nov. 19, 1999  The Consumer Culture
Nov. 15, 1996  Consumer Debt
Sep. 13, 1985  America in Debt
Jan. 25, 1980  Consumer Debt
Apr. 11, 1975  Consumer Credit Economy
Jan. 12, 1972  Directions of the Consumer Movement
Nov. 10, 1965  Personal Debt in a Consumer Economy
Jan. 02, 1957  Tight Credit
Feb. 10, 1956  Consumer Credit
Mar. 30, 1949  Installment Credit
Aug. 09, 1941  Restriction of Consumer Credit
Jan. 28, 1941  The Big Business of Making Small Loans
Jan. 17, 1934  Federal Credit Aid for Consumers
Jan. 01, 1930  Installment Buying, 1920–1930
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Consumer Credit and Debt