NU Online News Service, April 29, 2004, 6:15 p.m. EDT – Total debt levels for older American families were about the same in 2001 as they were in 1992, but housing accounted for a greater share of their debt burden.[@@]
Researchers at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington, base those conclusions on an analysis of Federal Reserve Bank data.
EBRI researchers found that the overall debt ratio for American families headed by someone 55 or older fell to 5.8% of assets in 2001, down from an average level of about 7% that prevailed throughout the 1990s.
Family debt payments ate up about 9% of family income both in 1992 and in 2001, EBRI reports.
The inflation-adjusted value of older families’ debt rose to an average of $39,000, from $27,500, but the percentage of older families with debt held steady at about 56%.
Debt ratios vary significantly with respect to family characteristics, with younger, wealthier, higher income and more educated family heads having higher debt ratios, EBRI says. Generally, family debt as a percentage of assets decreases with the age of the family head.