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Demographics of American Debt

demographics of American Debt

It is not the most shocking or world rocking accusation to accuse the American populace as a whole of indebtedness. What might be more eye-opening is the cause or individual circumstances of debt.

For example, did you know that, on average, the poorest or lowest income families carry the most credit card debt? Perhaps this seems obvious, but that wasn’t always the case. A few decades ago, the poorest of the poor simply did without, meaning they were poor, but out of debt as a rule. Now, the lowest classes have caught the middle-class disease of keeping up with the Jones’ by charging their expenses.

This leads to the downward debt cycle of overspending, underpaying, and eventually bankruptcy. Bankruptcy averages are at 19% for wage earners under $30k annually. This is not the highest bankruptcy wage bracket, but only by 1%. To see the highest and lowest bankruptcy salaries, click the graphic to the left.

How does debt stack up in the ethnic groups? Is money color blind? Not hardly. Comparing debt to debt, the Hispanic population carries the highest credit card balances from month to month. With an average of over $10,000.00 in credit card debt, Latino persons edge out white individuals by only $275.

The African American population carries the least amount in overall credit card debt per billing cycle. But this statistic is misleading because as of 2007, over 90% of African American families were carrying a balance in credit card debt from month to month. This 90% was identified to be African American households earning between $10,000.00 and $24,000.00 yearly. The numbers look better taking the entire African American populace as a whole, click the graphic at left to see more.

So it seems different socio-economic classes have a major effect on the amount of debt likely to be carried from month to month. But is there a demographic that levels the playing field? Sort of. Debt, in terms of medical care, is universally unkind with medical bills being the number one cause of bankruptcy cases. Cancer, heart failure, and other debilitating diseases do not generally discriminate between the different wage brackets and the bills can be hefty enough to derail even the stoutest bank accounts.

Many self-pay medical customers scramble to find ways to lower their medical costs; some skip doctor’s appointments or delay them as long as possible. Others avoid filling prescriptions for medications. In the end, these kinds of choices usually wind up costing the individual more in terms of health deterioration as well as additional medical care fees for the declining health.

Where do these additional costs usually wind up going? You guessed it: on a credit card account, which is then carried as a balance from month to month. The number one medical expense charged to a credit account is medication. Other costs wind up on the Visa bill as well: click the graphic at left to see how self-pay medical bills stack up.

In the long run, debt is more a state of mind than a state of class. Learning how to leverage debt and income for the greatest benefit could help anyone no matter who you are or how fat or thin your savings account might be.