Household Debt Rises by $333 Billion in Fourth Quarter of 2021

Total household debt increased 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising by $333 billion to land at $15.58 trillion, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported today. Mortgage balances, the largest component of household debt, rose by $258 billion in the fourth quarter to reach $10.93 trillion. Among non-mortgage debt categories, credit card balances increased by $52 billion in the fourth quarter, the largest quarterly increase on record. Student loans contracted by $8 billion from the prior quarter. In total, non-housing balances grew by $74 billion.

As of late December, 2.7% of outstanding debt was in some stage of delinquency, a two percentage point decline from the fourth quarter of 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. The share of mortgage balances delinquent 90 days or more held at 0.5% in the fourth quarter, a historic low.

For auto loans and credit card debt, the share flowing into 90-day delinquency declined to 1.6% for auto loans and declined to 3.2% for credit card debt. The rate of serious student loan delinquency was 5%, which reflected a Department of Education decision to report current status on loans eligible for CARES Act forbearances.