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Economic Indicators

9 Feb 2022

U.S. Consumer Debt Loads Grew more by $1 trillion in 2021

The Index Today

According to a report released on Tuesday by the New York Federal Reserve, U.S. consumer debt loads grew in 2021 by the largest amount in 14 years as people ramped up borrowing to afford homes, cars and other goods that are becoming more expensive.

Researchers said that the higher borrowing was fueled in part by rising prices as consumers cope with the strongest inflation seen in nearly four decades. And households, supported by increased savings and higher incomes, seem to be handling the larger debt loads well so far.

"The aggregate balances of newly opened mortgage and auto loans sharply increased in 2021, corresponding to increases in home and car prices," Wilbert Van Der Klaauw, senior vice president at the New York Fed, said in a statement.

According to the New York Fed's quarterly report on household debt and credit, total household debt grew by $1 trillion last year, marking the largest increase in overall debt since 2007. The total debt balance is now $1.4 trillion higher than it was at the end of 2019.

Over $4.5 trillion in mortgages were originated in 2021, reaching a historic high for the database, which goes back to 1999. Mortgage balances increased by $258 billion in the fourth quarter to $10.93 trillion at the end of December.

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