Experian Highlights Generational Gap on Debt: Generation X Tips the Scales Just Above Baby boomers with Debts and Boomers Boast Much Higher Credit Scores

Experian highlights generational gap on debt: Generation X tips the scales just above baby boomers with debts and boomers boast much higher credit scores
Latest study provides insight into four generational age groups, and what their debts and credit scores reveal

Costa Mesa, Calif., Feb. 15, 2012 — The latest credit trends study from Experian shows that baby boomers are strong and steady in their pursuit of the American dream, while the Gen Y’ers are starting to make their way by building credit with their student loan and auto loan payments.  Generation X has the highest amount of debt in the study and second to lowest credit scores, while the Greatest Generation is reducing their overall debt and has the highest credit scores of all of the generations.

Findings from the study, released today, showcase the types of debts Americans have, the amounts they owe and the differences between the generations. The four groups studied included the Greatest Generation (ages 66-plus), baby boomers (ages 47 to 65), Generation X (ages 30 to 46) and Generation Y (ages 19 to 29). 

The study shows that nationally, the average debt* in the United States is $78,030 and the average VantageScore® is 751.  The debt and VantageScore distribution for each generation is listed below with Generation X carrying the most debt and Generation Y carrying the least:

Generation                             Average debt                         Average VantageScore

Greatest Generation               $38,043                                   829

Baby boomers                        $101,951                                 782

Generation X                           $111,121                                 718

Generation Y                           $34,765                                   672

“While ‘generation gap’ is a common term when referring to topics such as music, fashion, culture and politics, the study reveals that age groups manage their money and debts quite differently as well,” said Michele Raneri, vice president of analytics, Experian. “The gap between the highest and lowest average credit scores is vast — 829 for the Greatest Generation to 672 for  Generation Y —  yet the amount of average debt for these two groups is very close. On the other hand, the baby boomers and Generation X are carrying much higher amounts of debt — about three times more — than the Greatest Generation and Generation Y.”  

Additionally, the results show the distribution of debt over six key areas, including first mortgage, second mortgage, bank and retail cards, auto loans and student loans. Each generation’s largest debt contributor is first mortgage with Generation X (76.3 percent) moving slightly above the national average by five percent.  The Greatest Generation and Generation Y came in under the national average by 8 percent and 17 percent, respectively, and the baby boomers were in line with the national average. See the detailed chart below for percentage of debt segmented by age group and debt type:




Second Mortgage


Retail Card

Auto Loan

Student Loan

Avg. Debt

Greatest Generation














Baby boomer








Generation X








Generation Y








US Average








Below are some additional insights from the study and the charts above:

• The Greatest Generation has less than half debt of baby boomers and Generation X, but proportionally, their highest debt burden falls in the mortgage category at 66.6 percent, followed by their second mortgages at 13.4 percent, and bankcards at 6.0 percent. This generation tends to favor their bankcards with their debt in this category coming in at 43% more, proportionally, than the national average. The Greatest Generation also dominates 36 states with their high VantageScores and the highest score in the study — 855 — in Minnesota.  Even the Greatest Generation’s lowest score — 783 — in Washington, D.C., is still higher than the national average.  
• Baby boomers tend to be equal to or under the national average in nearly every category with the exception of their second mortgages, which is proportionally 23 percent higher than the national average.  When looking at the credit scores of baby boomers at the state level, they have their lowest score in Mississippi with a VantageScore of 736 and their highest score, 826, in North Dakota.
• Generation X has the largest proportion of their debt falling into the mortgage category at 76.3 percent, and their second mortgages at 5.9 percent.  They also tend to use credit for auto loans with 5.8 percent of their debt falling into that category.  When comparing the highs and lows of Generation X’s VantageScores, their highest scorers are in Minnesota with a score of 759 and their lowest is in Mississippi with 667.

• Generation Y shows some major shifts when it comes to where their largest debts are. Mortgages contribute to 59.9 percent of their debt, followed by student loans at 15.1 percent, auto loans at 13.7 percent and bankcards at 5.2 percent.  While having the smallest amount of debt overall in the study, proportionally, their debts compared to the national averages are significant.  This generation’s debt for mortgage is 17 percent lower, 421 percent higher for student loans, 136 percent higher for auto loans, and 24 percent higher in bankcards.  Additionally, this generation has the lowest state credit score in the study — 634 — in Mississippi. Their highest score is 705 in Minnesota.

“For all consumers, establishing and maintaining a positive credit history is an important step in achieving financial goals,” said Maxine Sweet, vice president Consumer Education, Experian. “At any age, paying bills on time is the single most important contributor to good credit.”

For more information on managing credit, visit www.livecreditsmart.com

Kristine Snyder 
Experian Public Relations
1 714 830 5192

About Experian
Experian® is the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to clients in more than 80 countries. The company helps businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. Experian also helps individuals to check their credit report and credit score and protect against identity theft

Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended 31 March 2011 was $4.2 billion. Experian employs approximately 
15,000 people in 41 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and São Paulo, Brazil.

For more information, visit http://www.experianplc.com.

Experian and the Experian marks used herein are service marks or registered trademarks of Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.

VantageScore® is owned by VantageScore Solutions, LLC.

* Average debt for this study was calculated using first and second mortgage loans, auto loan/lease, other types of installment loans, as well as revolving accounts, but not necessarily a combination of all for each consumer.