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January/February 1998, 
Vol. 80, No. 1
Posted 1998-01-01

Still Charging: The Growth of Credit Card Debt Between 1992 and 1995

by Peter S. Yoo

Between 1991 and 1997, consumer revolving credit outstanding more than doubled—from $247 billion to $514 billion. This rapid rise of consumer debt, especially credit card debt, has generated much discussion about its cause, sustainability, and implications. The author uses the recently released 1995 Survey of Consumer Finances to update a previous study that separated the growth of credit card debt into its two main components: increases in the number of households with credit cards and increases in average credit card balances. As before, the analysis separates the effects of lower- and upper-income households on the growth of credit card debt over the period studied. The author also compares the growth of credit card debt between 1992 and 1995 to its growth during the other intersurvey years to identify characteristics that may have affected recent growth.