This study finds that the average debt of the middle class has increased significantly since 1989. Using data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the study creates balance sheets showing average amounts of assets, debt and net worth for the middle class by age groups at different points in time. The study shows Americans over age 50 are experiencing the sharpest rates of increase in debt and younger families are carrying the largest amounts of debt. This trend presents a threat to the long-term financial security of middle class families of all ages.
Despite substantially higher asset values in 2010 than in 1989, the financial stability of middle class families has not improved for families ages 25 to 49, and improved little for those ages 50-64. The oldest families, those 75+, experienced little gain in financial assets over the past two decades, and increasing numbers of older families are carrying debt, and larger amounts of debt, than in the past.