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Inflation Forces Budget-Squeezed Americans to Ask Family, Friends for Loans

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Millions more Americans are borrowing money from family and friends than they were a year ago, a sign that household budgets are coming under strain as prices surge.

Some 25.6 million people — more than 10% of all adults — relied on loans from those close to them to meet spending needs, according to the Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse survey of finances, which covered the period from March 30 to April 11.

That figure was up from 19.1 million a year earlier, when the question was first asked

Millennials were the most likely to borrow from family and friends. Almost 40 million households are headed by a Millennial — almost as many as those led by Boomers — yet they hold just 6.4% of the total national wealth, while Boomers have more than half of it.

What’s more, many Millennials entered the job market in the long downturn that followed the 2008 crash, and have struggled with mounting student debts.

The Census Bureau survey also showed how financial strains map onto the country’s racial divides. The sharpest increase in borrowing from family and friends was among Black Americans, where the share increased to about 1 in 6, from 1 in 9 a year earlier.

There were also signs that regions experiencing the fastest price increases saw bigger jumps in borrowing from family and friends.

The share of borrowers rose to 16.6% in Riverside, California, and 14.9% in Atlanta — both roughly double the year-earlier figure. Those areas are among the U.S. metros with the highest inflation rates in the last couple of months.

The Census Bureau has been carrying out regular Household Pulse surveys since May 2020, as it seeks to measure the economic and social effects of the pandemic.  A growing number of federal agencies have been collaborating with the Bureau to broaden the data set.

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