In this article:
The average debt per individual in the U.S. has surpassed $100,000, according to Experian data. This is a national average, however, and the average debt balance varies greatly as you zoom in on the nation's regions, states and cities. In fact, the variance among cities is greater than one may assume. With mortgage rates, home prices and higher interest rates driving debt balances higher everywhere at a faster rate than in previous years, there's reason to expect these differences among cities to grow in the next few years.
To illustrate this, we looked at current debt levels in the 25 largest metro areas, debt growth trends during the pandemic, as well as how food, energy costs and average home prices have changed.
Average Debt Per Individual Surpasses $100,000 in Most Metro Areas
City living is typically more expensive, as debt levels illustrate. Of the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, only nine have an average debt level below the national average of $100,178, according to Experian data. But the metro area with the highest average debt, San Francisco, has a debt level nearly double the national average at $194,772, followed by Seattle and Washington, D.C., both of which have average debt over $160,000.
Average Debt Levels in the 25 Largest Metros, 2022
But average debt levels are still under the $100,000 mark in nine metros, all of which are in the South and Midwest. Even in Detroit, where average debt is the lowest, consumers owe an average of nearly $80,000 in combined mortgage debt, student loans, credit card balances and other types of debt.
Home Price Increases Drive Rising Average Debt
According to the National Association of Realtors, 80% of the 185 metro markets it tracks saw median single-family existing-home sales prices increase by 10% or more from the second quarter (Q2) of 2021 to Q2 2022. As mortgages are by far the largest debt most individuals carry (among those with a mortgage), it's no surprise that those increases find their way into significantly higher average increases.
Increase in Average Mortgage Debt in the Largest Metros Since the Pandemic
The West Coast metros of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle all saw average balances increase by more than $50,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. The broad national trend is similar: Higher home prices lead to larger mortgage balances and higher overall debt. The cities with average mortgage balance levels below the national average also have below-average overall debt levels.
Credit Card Balances Decrease Everywhere
There are some bright spots for city consumers, at least for now: Average credit card balances remain lower than they were at the start of the pandemic.
Change in Average Credit Card Balance in Large Metros Since the Pandemic
Here, the picture is more geographically mixed than it was for mortgage and overall debt levels, as some of the cities with the largest mortgage increases also have large credit card balance decreases. Washington, D.C., is an example of that. But metros with below-average mortgage debt levels also saw significant decreases in average credit card debt levels, like Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Methodology: The analysis results provided are based on an Experian-created statistically relevant aggregate sampling of our consumer credit database that may include use of the FICO® Score☉ 8 version. Different sampling parameters may generate different findings compared with other similar analysis. Analyzed credit data did not contain personal identification information. Metro areas group counties and cities into specific geographic areas for population censuses and compilations of related statistical data.
FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.