New Census Bureau Data Shows Racial Differences in Household Debt

In recent weeks JBHE has reported on the wealth gap between Whites and Blacks. (See JBHE posts here and here.) The net  worth of households is determined by valuing the assets it possesses minus the debt that is owed.

The U.S. Census Bureau has released new data on the debt held by U.S. households. It may come as a surprise to many readers that White households have far more debt than Black households. The median debt held by White households in 2019 was $75,300 compared to $28,200 for Black households. The median figure shows the amount where half of all families have debt more than that amount and half have less. The average, or mean, debt of White households in 2019 was $147,500 compared to $98,200 for Blacks. White households were twice as likely as Black households to have debt of more than $500,000.

For those families that own their home, the median mortgage debt is similar: $135,000 for non-Hispanic White households and $121,000 for Blacks.

Whites have median credit card debt of $4,000 compared to $3,000 for Blacks. Blacks were slightly more likely than White to hold credit card debt.

For student loans, the median debt of Whites is $20,000 compared to $25,000 for Blacks. But nearly 27 percent of Black households had student loan debt compared to 19.5 percent of White households. And the average student loan debt for Black households was $44,150 compared to $39,250 for Whites.

While the racial gaps in debt do not appear to be large, it must be noted that Blacks have median household incomes that are only 60 percent of the median income of non-Hispanic White households. And Whites hold 10 or more times the wealth of Black households.

Therefore, Whites are able to afford large mortgages, auto loans on luxury vehicles, and to carry credit card debt because they have the capability to pay off these debts.

 


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