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Household Wealth and Debt in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011

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Wealth and debt are important bellwethers of household financial security and prospects in the United States. Wealth tends to increase in times of economic prosperity when households are able to grow their assets and fall when households draw on accumulated financial resources in times of economic hardship. Debt, on the other hand, is often used by households in times of economic prosperity to finance large purchases – such as a home or a vehicle – or to pay for a household member’s education. Households may also take on debt to help them get through a period of unemployment or to help pay for medical care.

Did you know that changes in overall median net worth observed over the past decade have been driven primarily by changes in one of its major components – equity that American households hold in their homes? Today the Census Bureau released sets of detailed tables on wealth and debt in the United States in 2011, accompanied by analysis of how statistics that appear in these tables have changed over the past decade.

The detailed tables on wealth examine median values of assets and asset ownership rates for households in 2011. These wealth tables are a unique product, since the sample size of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which is the source of these statistics, allows comparisons of the assets of small groups, especially  those that tend to be under-represented in other surveys (such as low income households). The detailed wealth tables have been published by the Census Bureau since 1984.

Included in the tables are such characteristics of the householder as race and Hispanic origin, age, education, region, income quintile, region, and labor force status. The current release is accompanied by an analysis describing how household wealth has changed in the United States between 2000 and 2011. Overall, median household net worth decreased by $5,046, or 7 percent, between 2000 and 2011.

The detailed tables on household debt, also released today, are a new product. These tables show household debt by detailed characteristics of the householder, again taking advantage of the sample size in SIPP that makes it possible. They are also accompanied by an analysis of how household debt has changed in the United States over the past decade.

Did you know that a smaller percentage of households held debt in 2011 relative to 2000? In 2011, 69 percent of U.S. households held some form of debt. This represents a decrease from 2000 when 74 percent of U.S. households held debt. At the same time, median household debt has increased over the past decade:  from $50,971 in 2000 to $70,000 in 2011.

For additional wealth and debt statistics by select demographic and economic characteristics, please see //www.census.gov/people/wealth/, “Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011,” and “Household Debt in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011.”

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