Generation Broke

The Growth of Debt Among Young Americans

Posted October 13, 2004
By Demos
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Credit card and student loan debt among young Americans rose dramatically in the 1990s, leaving many young adults over-extended and vulnerable to financial collapse. This briefing paper documents the rise in credit card and student loan debt between 1992 and 2001 and examines the factors contributing to young adults’ increased reliance on credit cards. 

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations

Key Takeaway

Many factors, including deregulation of the credit card industry, contributed to young Americans being deeply in debt.

In the 1990s, the major living expenses that begin to mount between the ages of 25 and 34— housing, child care and health care— all increased dramatically. And the rising unemployment, slow real wage growth and skyrocketing tuition with resulting student loan debts have combined to erode the economic security of today’s young adults.

Additionally, the newly-deregulated credit industry began aggressively marketing to young people on college campuses. Deregulation brought higher rates and fees, making it increasingly difficult for young Americans to get out of debt.