Sign In
Get Started
Finance for Parents

These States Have the Biggest Debt Problem in America

By Allison KadeJul 31, 2019

Household debt in the U.S. is the highest it has ever been. According to the New York Fed, total household debt reached $13.67 trillion in the first quarter of 2019, an increase of 0.9% from the fourth quarter of 2018 and nearly $1 trillion above its previous peak in 2008.

These statistics make sense in the larger context of the national economy. In general, household debt decreases during recessions, and increases during economic booms. That’s because banks often tighten borrowing requirements during recessions, making it difficult for consumers to take out loans.

With the U.S. economy more than ten years into its longest-ever expansion, it isn’t surprising that total household debt has increased for 19 consecutive quarters.

Debt isn’t a bad thing in itself, since debt can finance a variety of purchases, like homes, cars and education. But debt can become problematic if the borrower can’t repay the loan. Across all households, the percentage of loan balances in serious delinquency (90+ days late) is currently 4.5% for auto loans, 7.8% for credit card payments, 1.1% for mortgages and 11.4% for student loans.

Delinquencies also follow the ups and downs of the economy. During recessions, more people tend to skip out on their debt repayments; during periods of economic expansion, delinquencies tend to decrease. At the peak of the Great Recession in late 2009, 11.8% of total loan balances were at least 30 days delinquent. Compare that to the beginning of 2019, when that number was just 4.6%.

In other words, more Americans today effectively manage their debt and pay their bills on time.

“The key to managing debt is planning . . . Before you take on debt, you need to know three things: why you plan to take on the debt, how you are going to repay it and the date by which you will repay it,” explains Rod Griffin, Director of Consumer Education and Awareness at Experian.

Americans' total debt balance by delinquency status

People with certain loan types, in certain age groups and in certain states have more trouble paying off debts than others. To better understand how debt affects American families, financial services company Fabric analyzed statistics from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Experian.

For each state, Fabric calculated a composite score based on 90+ day delinquency rates for auto loans, credit cards, mortgages and student loans.

Here’s what Fabric found:

Key Takeaways

line graph showing percent of people in serious delinquency by loan type and by age

Mortgage delinquencies have steadily decreased over the past decade. But student loan, credit card and auto loan delinquencies have all increased from 2018 to 2019. Combined with the generally strong economy, that suggests lenders are allowing consumers to borrow more money than they can afford—something families should bear in mind.

The data also shows that young households are especially prone to missing payments. According to Griffin, “There are many reasons people miss loan payments. Often, it’s as simple as forgetting to send the payment. Automated payments systems can be a great tool.”

graph depicting what percent of people are in serious delinquency on their auto loans and credit cards by age

For young families, auto loans and credit card debt are particularly troublesome. Young adults under 29 are far more likely to fall behind on their auto loan and credit card payments.

Scatter plot showing Americans' credit scores and poverty rates compared to delinquency rates in the country

As you might expect, there’s a strong link between payment history and long-term financial health. Across the U.S., strong payment histories are correlated with higher credit scores, easier access to capital and lower poverty rates. Conversely, loan delinquencies are associated with lower credit scores, limited access to capital and higher rates of poverty. This data further underscores the importance of managing debt and building strong credit from an early age.

map of U.S. showing delinquency rates by state

Some states have a higher rate of debt delinquency than others. This may be a result of local lending and borrowing practices, as well as social and economic differences.

If you live in a high-debt state, keep this in mind when considering a new loan. Fortunately, Griffin explained, people typically don’t incur unmanageable debt overnight (even if it feels that way!). It takes a long time to accumulate significant debt—and it takes time to recover.

So, recognizing those patterns as early as possible can make it easier to dig yourself back out. Great non-profit organizations like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling provide assistance to families and individuals looking to get back on their feet in all 50 states.

Here are the states with the biggest debt problems:

The 15 States With the Worst Debt

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

15. Georgia

  • Overall delinquency index: 60.0

  • Auto loan delinquency: 5.9%

  • Credit card delinquency: 7.7%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.0%

  • Student loan delinquency: 13.1%

  • Average credit score: 654

  • Poverty rate: 13.3%

  • Household debt per capita: $48,370

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

14. New York

  • Overall delinquency index: 61.3

  • Auto loan delinquency: 3.6%

  • Credit card delinquency: 8.3%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 2.2%

  • Student loan delinquency: 8.6%

  • Average credit score: 688

  • Poverty rate: 13.4%

  • Household debt per capita: $49,680

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

13. Texas

  • Overall delinquency index: 64.4

  • Auto loan delinquency: 5.3%

  • Credit card delinquency: 8.7%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 0.9%

  • Student loan delinquency: 13.7%

  • Average credit score: 656

  • Poverty rate: 13.4%

  • Household debt per capita: $43,660

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

12. South Carolina

  • Overall delinquency index: 64.5

  • Auto loan delinquency: 6.1%

  • Credit card delinquency: 7.8%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.1%

  • Student loan delinquency: 13.1%

  • Average credit score: 657

  • Poverty rate: 15.6%

  • Household debt per capita: $43,880

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo. Kentucky skyline

11. Kentucky

  • Overall delinquency index: 64.7

  • Auto loan delinquency: 4.6%

  • Credit card delinquency: 7.4%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.2%

  • Student loan delinquency: 16.0%

  • Average credit score: 663

  • Poverty rate: 14.4%

  • Household debt per capita: $34,010

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Arkansas

  • Overall delinquency index: 66.0

  • Auto loan delinquency: 5.0%

  • Credit card delinquency: 9.1%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 0.9%

  • Student loan delinquency: 14.4%

  • Average credit score: 657

  • Poverty rate: 14.8%

  • Household debt per capita: $32,790

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Delaware

  • Overall delinquency index: 68.7

  • Auto loan delinquency: 5.1%

  • Credit card delinquency: 8.5%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.9%

  • Student loan delinquency: 10.3%

  • Average credit score: 672

  • Poverty rate: 9.2%

  • Household debt per capita: $54,200

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Alabama

  • Overall delinquency index: 69.2

  • Auto loan delinquency: 6.2%

  • Credit card delinquency: 7.7%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.0%

  • Student loan delinquency: 15.2%

  • Average credit score: 654

  • Poverty rate: 15.0%

  • Household debt per capita: $36,780

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. West Virginia

  • Overall delinquency index: 72.2

  • Auto loan delinquency: 5.0%

  • Credit card delinquency: 7.8%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.0%

  • Student loan delinquency: 18.0%

  • Average credit score: 658

  • Poverty rate: 17.3%

  • Household debt per capita: $29,430

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Oklahoma

  • Overall delinquency index: 77.0

  • Auto loan delinquency: 5.4%

  • Credit card delinquency: 8.7%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.2%

  • Student loan delinquency: 15.6%

  • Average credit score: 656

  • Poverty rate: 12.6%

  • Household debt per capita: $34,370

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Nevada

  • Overall delinquency index: 80.9

  • Auto loan delinquency: 5.1%

  • Credit card delinquency: 10.4%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.2%

  • Student loan delinquency: 14.3%

  • Average credit score: 655

  • Poverty rate: 13.7%

  • Household debt per capita: $52,770

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Florida

  • Overall delinquency index: 83.8

  • Auto loan delinquency: 5.3%

  • Credit card delinquency: 9.7%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.6%

  • Student loan delinquency: 13.7%

  • Average credit score: 668

  • Poverty rate: 13.7%

  • Household debt per capita: $45,300

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Louisiana

  • Overall delinquency index: 86.1

  • Auto loan delinquency: 6.4%

  • Credit card delinquency: 8.1%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.7%

  • Student loan delinquency: 15.2%

  • Average credit score: 650

  • Poverty rate: 21.4%

  • Household debt per capita: $38,160

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. New Mexico

  • Overall delinquency index: 86.9

  • Auto loan delinquency: 6.3%

  • Credit card delinquency: 8.9%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.5%

  • Student loan delinquency: 15.2%

  • Average credit score: 659

  • Poverty rate: 18.6%

  • Household debt per capita: $39,650

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo. Mississippi skyline

1. Mississippi

  • Overall delinquency index: 100.0

  • Auto loan delinquency: 6.6%

  • Credit card delinquency: 8.4%

  • Mortgage delinquency: 1.7%

  • Student loan delinquency: 18.3%

  • Average credit score: 647

  • Poverty rate: 18.3%

  • Household debt per capita: $32,100

Methodology & Full Results

Statistics on delinquencies and per capita household debt are from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Q4 2018 Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. Poverty rates are from the U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey. Unemployment rates are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 Local Area Unemployment Statistics. Credit scores are from the Experian 2017 State of Credit.

To identify the states with the biggest debt problem, a composite index (from 0 to 100) was calculated based on the four different delinquency rates listed—auto loans, credit cards, mortgages and student loans. For the purpose of this analysis, “delinquency rate” is the percentage of total debt that is 90+ days delinquent. An index of 0 indicates that the state has the lowest delinquency rates across the four loan types among all states, and an index of 100 indicates that the state has the highest delinquency rates among all states.

Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.


Make a will online, free, and help protect the people you love - in minutes.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC offers a mobile experience for people on the go who want an easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.


Subscribe to our newsletter


Written by

Allison Kade

Related Posts

Finance for Parents

Is Life Insurance Taxable?

Pop quiz: Do you pay taxes on life insurance? Life insurance proceeds aren’t considered income in the eyes of the IRS. Here’s what you should know.

By Jessica Sillers
Finance for Parents

Can I Get Life Insurance if I Have Depression? How Mental Health Affects Coverage

If you’re one of the millions of Americans living with mental illness, life insurance could mean higher premiums—but not necessarily. Read this now.

By Wendy Berkowitz
Finance for Parents

Around the Web: 6 Smart Personal Finance Stories

We combed the internet to show you the top articles we’re reading right now about how to manage your money and more.

By Allison Kade

Fabric Picks

Finance for Parents

Life Insurance Underwriting: How It Works & What You Need to Know

A life insurance underwriter is the person responsible for determining whether you get insured and how much it’ll cost you. Here’s how that works.

By Bethy Hardeman
Finance for Parents

7 Reasons You Might Need Life Insurance

Life insurance may sound like the most “adulting” thing ever, but there’s a good chance your loved ones would be better off if you got a policy.

By Fabric
Finance for Parents

Probate 101: What You Should Know About Probate (or Avoiding Probate)

When you’re grieving, a complicated legal and financial process is the last thing you want to deal with. Your guide to probate: made simple.

By Jessica Sillers

About Fabric

Subscribe to our newsletter

© 2019 Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC

Fabric Instant is an Accidental Death Insurance Policy (Form VL-ADH1 with state variations where applicable) and Fabric Premium is a Term Life Insurance Policy (Form ICC16-VLT and CMP 0501 with state variations where applicable). Policies are issued by Vantis Life Insurance Company. (Vantis Life), Windsor, CT (all states except NY), and by Vantis Life Insurance Company of New York, Brewster, NY (NY only). Coverage may not be available in all states. Issuance of coverage for Fabric Premium is subject to underwriting review and approval. Please see a copy of the policy for the full terms, conditions and exclusions. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of Vantis Life.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC (FIA) is an insurance agency licensed to sell life, accident, and health insurance products. FIA will receive compensation from Vantis Life for such sales. The NAIC Company Code for Vantis Life is 68632. See the Terms of Use for additional information regarding FIA.‬‬

Plan like a parent. is a trademark of Fabric Technologies, Inc.