Press Release

Household Debt Jumps as 2017 Marks the Fifth Consecutive Year Of Positive Annual Growth Since Post-Recession Deleveraging

Mortgage Debt Increases Substantially; Regional Analysis Reveals That Mortgage Debt Levels In States Hardest-Hit By Financial Crisis Remain Far Below Pre-Recession Levels
February 13, 2018

NEW YORK – The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data today issued its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit,which reported that total household debt increased by $193 billion (1.5%) to $13.15 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2017. This report marks the fifth consecutive year of positive annual household debt growth. There were increases in mortgage, student, auto, and credit card debt (increasing by 1.6%, 1.5%, 0.7% and 3.2% respectively) and another modest decline in home equity line of credit (HELOC) balances (decreasing by 0.9%). The Report is based on data from the New York Fed's Consumer Credit Panel, a nationally representative sample of individual- and household-level debt and credit records drawn from anonymized Equifax credit data.

Mortgages are the largest form of household debt and their increase of $139 billion was the most substantial increase seen in several quarters. Unlike overall debt balances, which last year surpassed their previous peak reached in the third quarter of 2008, mortgage balances remain 4.4% below it. The New York Fed issued an accompanying blog post to examine the regional differences in mortgage debt growth since the previous peak.

“Despite recovered house prices, mortgage balances remain far below their previous peaks in the states that were hardest-hit by the Great Recession,” said Donghoon Lee, Research Officer at the New York Fed. “While the subdued mortgage balance levels of these areas should not necessarily be interpreted as a negative outcome, the regional differences clearly show that the echoes of the financial crisis still linger.”

The Report includes a one-page summary of key takeaways and their supporting data points. Overarching trends from the Report’s summary include:

Housing Debt

  • Mortgage balances increased substantially, and the median credit score of borrowers for new mortgages decreased slightly.  
  • The share of mortgage balances that were 90 or more days delinquent (“seriously delinquent”) continued to improve. Notably, the share of mortgages in early delinquency that “cured” by becoming current on the debt improved to 35.9%, from 30.9% in the third quarter.

Non-Housing Debt

  • Auto loan balances continued their steady rise seen since 2011. Although originations decreased slightly in the quarter, 2017 had the highest annual auto loan origination volume observed in the New York Fed data.
  • Credit card balances increased and flows into serious delinquency have increased since the third quarter of 2016.
  • Outstanding student loan balances increased. Student loan delinquency flows declined slightly but remain at a high level.

Bankruptcies & Foreclosures

  • Bankruptcy notations decreased for the second consecutive quarter.
  • Foreclosure notations remained essentially unchanged at the lowest levels observed in the New York Fed’s data.

Household Debt and Credit Developments as of Q4 2017

Category Quarterly Change* Annual Change** Total as of Q4 2017
Mortgage Debt (+) $139 billion

(+) $402 billion $8.88 trillion
Home Equity Line of Credit (-) $4 billion (-) $29 billion $444 billion
Student Loan Debt (+) $21 billion (+) $68 billion

$1.38 trillion

Auto Loan Debt (+) $8 billion (+) $64 billion $1.22 trillion
Credit Card Debt (+) $26 billion (+) $55 billion $834 billion
Total Debt (+) $193 billion (+) $572 billion $13.15 trillion

*Change from Q3 2017 to Q4 2017

**Change from Q4 2016 to Q4 2017

Flow into Serious Delinquency (90 days or more delinquent)

Q3 2017 Q4 2017
Mortgage Debt 1.2%

Home Equity Line of Credit 0.9% 0.9%
Student Loan Debt2 9.6% 9.3%
Auto Loan Debt 2.4% 2.3%
Credit Card Debt 4.6% 4.6%
All 2.4% 2.3%

1 Chart depicts an annualized share of balances transitioning into delinquency. Flow into serious delinquency is computed as the balances that have newly become at least 90 days late in the reference quarter divided by the balances that were current or less than 90 days past due in the previous quarter.

2 As explained in a previous report, delinquency rates for student loans are likely to understate effective delinquency rates because about half of these loans are currently in deferment, in grace periods or in forbearance and therefore temporarily not in the repayment cycle. This implies that among loans in the repayment cycle delinquency rates are roughly twice as high.

Household Debt and Credit Report »

About the Report

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Household Debt and Credit Report provides unique data and insight into the credit conditions and activity of U.S. consumers. Based on data from the New York Fed's Consumer Credit Panel, a nationally representative sample drawn from anonymized Equifax credit data, the report provides a quarterly snapshot of household trends in borrowing and indebtedness, including data about mortgages, student loans, credit cards, auto loans and delinquencies. The report aims to help community groups, small businesses, state and local governments and the public to better understand, monitor and respond to trends in borrowing and indebtedness at the household level. Sections of the report are presented as interactive graphs on the New York Fed's Household Credit web page and the full report is available for download.

Betsy Bourassa
(212) 720-6885
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