Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: 50 Years of American Indebtedness and Policies That Have Shaped It

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:15 AM
Brickell South (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Charles Pierret, U.S. Department of Labor and A. Rupa Datta, National Opinion Research Center
Using all six surveys in the National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) program, this paper documents patterns of household debt since the late 1960s across several generations born throughout the 20thcentury.  The paper indicates the extent to which demographic disparities in debt (for example, across age, educational attainment and race/ethnicity) have varied over time or across the life course.  In tandem, the paper identifies key policy or market changes that have affected household indebtedness over the same 50 year period.  Relevant areas include federal income tax treatment of mortgage debt, regulation of housing finance more generally, the rise of unsecured credit through credit cards, available methods of college finance, divorce laws, and federal and state tax incentives for retirement savings.

The NLS program of the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes six nationally-representative birth cohort surveys of individuals born in the 20th century.  They begin with the Older Men’s cohorts, born 1906-1921; include Mature Women born 1922 – 1937; Young Men and Women born 1941-1953; the NLS Youth, 1979 cohorts born 1957-1964; and currently end with the NLS Youth, 1997 cohorts born 1980-1984.  Data collection began on the early cohorts in 1966, with the two NLS Youth cohorts collecting data biennially to this day. Each survey was nationally representative, included relevant racial/ethnic oversamples, and collected data over at least a twelve-year period.