Visualizing America's Debt per Capita by State

The United States of America could be called the United States of Debt: recent data shows that Americans on average owe a total of over $51,000. Compare this to a gross domestic product per capita of $58,388 and it’s no surprise that over one quarter of Americans have more credit card debt alone than their entire emergency savings.

  • Total U.S. household debt hit a record-high $14 trillion in Q4 2019.
  • Credit card debt rose by $57 billion over last year.
  • The average debt per capita ranges from $30,580 in West Virginia to $88,450 in Washington, D.C.
  • Over a quarter of Americans hold more credit card debt than emergency savings.

Our data comes from the Center for Microeconomic Data of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and contains the total debt per capita for all 50 states. Debt is broken into auto, credit card, mortgage, student and other debt. For our viz we use a radial chart comparing the overall total debt level for each state, with the totals broken down by subcategory.

The Five States with the Highest Debt per Capita

1. Washington DC: $88,450
2. Hawaii: $74,230
3. Colorado: $73,890
4. California: $73,400
5. Maryland: $72,310

The Five States with the Highest Debt per Capita

1. West Virginia: $30,580
2. Mississippi: $33,140
3. Arkansas: $33,950
4. Kentucky: $34,910
5. Oklahoma: $35,110

From coast to coast, debt is on the rise: total household debt hit a record high $14.2 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2019. Among this increase, household debt balances increased by $601, their largest increase since 2007. Household debts have risen for 22 consecutive quarters. Among the substantial increases nationwide are auto loans and credit card debt, both of which increased by $57 billion over the year. All told, total debt is now 11.6% larger than its pre-Great Recession peak.

While the average debt nationwide now stands at $51,000, there’s a large swing in debt by state: Washington, D.C. leads the nation with $88,450, with West Virginia in last place at $30,580. Overall cost of living is a large factor in total debt. The states with the highest debt burdens, such as California and Hawaii, are some of the most expensive states to live in, and Washington DC is one of the most expensive cities to live in. At over $13,000, the District of Columbia’s per capita student debt exceeds any state, which makes sense as the U.S. Census Bureau has named Washington, D.C. the most educated metro in the U.S.

This explosion in debt leaves one to wonder how long it will be until America’s debt bubble bursts. That remains to be seen, but it appears that coronavirus may be bringing that reality closes: a market downturn threatens to expose a highly leveraged corporate market, which in turn could affect the consumer debt market. If you are feeling the squeeze of mounting debts, or want to stay ahead of the seemingly endless debt cycle, check out our HowMuch debt consolidation guide.

How does your state’s consumer debt compare to nationwide? Do you think the coronavirus will affect the debt market? Let us know in the comments and share with your friends.

About the article


Juan Carlos