The Household Burden of the National Debt

Friday August 17th, 2012   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 8:50am PDT   •  

On 15 August 2008, the total U.S. public debt outstanding was just over $9.6 trillion (or if you’re a stickler for accuracy, $9,606,975,957,798.46). Four years later, on 15 August 2012, the total public debt outstanding for the United States had risen to just over $15.9 trillion (or rather, $15,919,488,010,442.70). In four years then, the U.S. national debt rose by more than $6.3 trillion, or by 65.7% of its value in 2008.

To put those numbers on a more human scale, the amount of the U.S. national debt per American household has increased from $81,984 to $131,113. This represents a 59.9% increase over the last four years, as we estimate that the number of households in the U.S. has increased over the same time from 117,181,000 in 2008 to about 121,418,000 in 2012.

And if it really helps understand what it means to have an extra $131,000 of debt piled onto your household, imagine what it would feel like if, in addition to all your current household bills, you were also paying the mortgage for this fine home currently on the market in Hartville, Ohio….

12740 Bluebell Ave NE, Hartville, OH 44632 - Source: Zillow

Is that really something that you can afford on top of all your other bills?


U.S. Treasury. The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It. [Online Application]. Accessed 16 August 2012.

U.S. Census. Historical Income Tables: Households. Table H-5. Race and Hispanic Origin of Householder–Households by Median and Mean Income: 1967 to 2010. [Excel Spreadsheet]. September 2011.

Zillow. 12740 Bluebell Ave NE, Hartville, OH, 44632. Accessed 16 August 2012.


We projected the number of U.S. households by adding 1,368,000, the average annual change in the number of U.S. households from 1967 through 2010, to the recorded figure for 2010, twice (once for 2011 and again to estimate the number of households for 2012). The Census’ official data for the number of households in 2011 will be published in September 2012.

Featured Image:
Source: Zillow

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August 2012