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The Growing Problem With Household Debt


Household debt in Q1 2019 increased 0.9% to $13.67 trillion, with balances on mortgages increasing 1.3%, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Center of Microeconomic Data. [1]

It was the 19th consecutive quarter with an increase, with household debt $993 billion higher than its previous peak of $12.68 trillion in Q3 2008.

An accompanying release [2] by the New York Fed states mortgage prevalence has declined since peaking at 34% in 2006. About 26% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 had a mortgage at the end of 2018. This is the lowest amount in the 20 years of available data.

Mortgage originations declined to $344 billion—the lowest level since Q3 2014. Delinquencies improved slightly, according to the report, with 1% of mortgage balances delinquent 90 days or more, down from 1.1% in Q4 2018.

Total household debt increases in Q1 2019 outpaced the 0.2% increase from 2018 and debt rose by a total of $124 billion.

Balances also climbed 0.5% in auto loans, 2% on student loans, and while credit card balances fell 2.5%.

“The rate at which credit card balances become delinquent has been rising, and that has coincided with an increase in younger borrowers entering the credit card market,” said Andrew Haughwout, SVP at the New York Fed. “However, these delinquency rates are increasing from historically low levels and remain below pre-financial-crisis levels.”

Housing debt has been increasing since dipping to $8.38 trillion in Q2 2013. The report states mortgage balances stood at $9.2 trillion, increasing by $120 billion from Q4 2018.

Housing debt in Q1 2004 was $6.2 trillion.

The report added that balances on home equity lines of credit (HELOC) declined by $6 billion, continuing its trend from 2009. HELOC balances are currently $406 billion.

Non-housing balances increased by $10 billion in Q1, with the biggest increases being a $29 billion hike in student loan balances.

The report also stated that 192,000 consumers had a bankruptcy notation add their credit reports, which is unchanged from Q1 2018.

The number of credit inquiries decline to around 137 million, which is the lowest level recorded in the history of the data.