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Charging up a mountain of debt: households and their credit cards

  • Yoo
  • Peter S.
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    I use the Surveys of Consumer Finances conducted in 1983, 1989 and 1992 to separate the growth of credit card debt into two categories, changes in the number of households with credit cards and changes in households credit card debt. I can then account for the relative contributions of increases in credit card availability, number of households, and average credit card debt. I also use the household income information to quantify the impact of more lower income households with credit cards. Data suggest that the increases in credit card debt is largely attributable to increased average credit card debt of households, not from more households with access to credit cards. Moreover, households in the top half of the income distribution accounted for most of the changes in the growth of credit card debt although lower income households increased their access to credit cards at a faster rate than households in general, and increased their average debt faster than the population.

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    Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 1996-015.

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    Date of creation: 1996
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    Publication status: Published in Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, March/April 1997, 79(2)
    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:1996-015
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    1. Donald Cox & Tullio Japelli, 1993. "The Effect Of Borrowing Constraints On Consumer Liabilities," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 228, Boston College Department of Economics.
    2. Rochelle L. Antoniewicz, 1996. "A comparison of the household sector from the Flow of Funds Accounts and the Survey of Consumer Finances," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-26, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    3. John C. Weicher, 1995. "Changes in the distribution of wealth: increasing inequality?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 5-23.
    4. Robert B. Avery & Gregory E. Elliehausen, 1986. "Financial characteristics of high-income families," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Mar, pages 163-177.
    5. Glenn B. Canner & Arthur B. Kennickell & Charles A. Luckett, 1995. "Household sector borrowing and the burden of debt," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Apr, pages 323-338.
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