The Balance Sheets of Low-Income Households: What We Know about Their Assets and Liabilities. Approaches to Describing Assets

11/01/2007

Some studies, such as Sullivan (2004), Carasso, Bell, Olsen, and Steuerle (2005), Bell, Carasso, and Steuerle (2005), and McKernan and Chen (2005), focus strictly on assets or a particular asset class such as vehicles, owner-occupied housing, pensions, or small businesses, respectively. The goal of these studies is to chart ownership: who in the population owns the asset, what is the average asset holding, what are the financial and demographic characteristics that correlate with ownership, and what are the barriers to owning or continuing to own. While assets are generally measured in dollar terms, the dominating criterion is an implicit asset holding triage  this type of study identifies a population of concern and offers an argument as to why a certain asset is vital (or not) for this populations economic advancement. For example, Sullivan (2004) examines vehicle ownership among families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits (welfare)  benefits that come with an asset test and may be curtailed or cut-off if recipients own assets above a certain value. He concludes that the asset test does empirically limit ownership of a vehicle.

Other studies do not consider an asset or debt category in isolation, but assemble an overall balance sheet for a survey sample, usually culminating in a calculation of net worth (assets minus debts). Aizcorbe, Kennickell and Moore (2003) and Bucks, Kennickell, and Moore (2006) present an array of tables that show net worth, assets by type, and debts by type, using the SCF. Badu, Daniels, and Salandro (1999), Caner and Wolff (2004), Lerman (2002), Lupton and Smith (1999), and Smith (1995) concentrate on net worth, but describe certain key asset and debt holdings like Social Security, homes, or mortgages by way of comparison, using a variety of surveys including the SCF, PSID, and HRS. Caner and Wolff go a step further and define their own measure, asset poverty, as an analog to income poverty and chart the numbers, frequency, and associated characteristics of households that are asset impoverished. These studies always provide mean and median measures of assets, debts, and net worth and the means and medians typically exclude zeroes (i.e., those households who do not hold a particular asset or debt or who have a zero balance).

Bucks et al. (2006), Smith (1995), and Lerman (2005), among others, also emphasize the percentage of households holding an asset or debt  although Bucks et al. (2006) are the most comprehensive in that they provide these holding rates for every asset class, by classifier. While Bucks et al. (2006) use a wide range of classifiers in their SCF wealth tables  income, age, education (in some cases), work status, race, and the like  they do not break out assets, debt, and net worth by marital status, although the data are readily available. Lupton and Smith (1999), Smith (1995), and Lerman (2005), however, do break out by marital status and find pronounced effects.

Kennickell (2003) and Wolff (2004) use gini coefficients, among other measures, to trace changes in the concentration of wealth over time. Wolff also includes tables showing the percentage of wealth by income class, which portrays the unequal distribution of wealth in a simpler way.

 

Appendix Exhibit 1.
Financial Assets Held and Median Value of Holdings by Family Characteristic, 2004

(median values for families holding asset in thousands of 2004 dollars)
Family characteristic Any financial asset Transaction accounts Certificates of deposit Savings bonds Bonds Stocks Pooled investment funds Retirement accounts Cash value life insurance Other managed assets Other
Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median
$1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s
All Families 93.8% 23.0 91.3% 3.8 12.7% 15.0 17.6% 1.0 1.8% 65.0 20.7% 15.0 15.0% 40.4 49.7% 35.2 45.0% 6.0 7.3% 45.0 10.0% 4.0
Age of head (years)
Less than 35 90.1% 5.2 86.4% 1.8 5.6% 4.0 15.3% 0.5 * * 13.3% 4.4 8.3% 8.0 40.2% 11.0 11.0% 3.0 2.9% 5.0 11.6% 1.0
35-44 93.6% 19.0 90.8% 3.0 6.7% 10.0 23.3% 0.5 0.6% 10.0 18.5% 10.0 12.3% 15.9 55.9% 27.9 20.1% 5.0 3.7% 18.3 10.0% 3.5
45-54 93.6% 38.6 91.8% 4.8 11.9% 11.0 21.0% 1.0 1.8% 30.0 23.2% 14.5 18.2% 50.0 57.7% 55.5 23.0% 8.0 6.2% 43.0 12.1% 5.0
55-64 95.2% 78.0 93.2% 6.7 18.1% 29.0 15.2% 2.5 3.3% 80.0 29.1% 25.0 20.6% 75.0 62.9% 83.0 32.1% 10.0 9.4% 65.0 7.2% 7.0
65-74 96.5% 36.1 93.9% 5.5 19.9% 20.0 14.9% 3.0 4.3% 40.0 25.4% 42.0 18.6% 60.0 43.2% 80.0 34.8% 8.0 12.8% 60.0 8.1% 10.0
75 or more 97.6% 38.8 96.4% 6.5 25.7% 22.0 11.0% 5.0 3.0% 295.0 18.4% 50.0 16.6% 60.0 29.2% 30.0 34.0% 5.0 16.7% 50.0 8.1% 22.0
Income percentile
Bottom quintile 80.1% 1.3 75.5% 0.6 5.0% 10.0 6.2% 0.4 * * 5.1% 6.0 3.6% 15.3 10.1% 5.0 14.0% 2.8 3.1% 22.0 7.1% 2.5
Second quintile 91.5% 4.9 87.3% 1.5 12.7% 14.0 8.8% 0.6 * * 8.2% 8.0 7.6% 25.0 30.0% 10.0 19.2% 3.9 4.9% 50.0 9.9% 2.0
Third quintile 98.5% 15.5 95.9% 3.0 11.8% 10.0 15.4% 0.8 * * 16.3% 12.0 12.7% 23.0 53.4% 17.2 24.2% 5.0 7.9% 36.0 9.3% 2.5
Fourth quintile 99.1% 48.5 98.4% 6.6 14.9% 18.0 26.6% 1.0 2.2% 80.0 28.2% 10.0 18.6% 25.5 69.7% 32.0 29.8% 7.0 7.8% 35.0 11.2% 4.0
Fifth quintile 99.9% 236.7 99.6% 19.5 18.9% 26.5 31.1% 1.4 5.8% 93.4 45.4% 36.0 32.7% 79.3 85.2% 126.4 33.8% 15.0 12.6% 75.0 12.4% 12.5
80-89.9% 99.8% 108.2 99.1% 11.0 16.3% 20.0 32.3% 0.8 2.8% 26.7 35.8% 15.0 26.2% 33.5 81.9% 70.0 29.5% 10.0 12.1% 50.0 11.4% 5.0
90-100% 100.0% 365.1 100.0% 28.0 21.5% 33.0 29.9% 2.0 8.8% 160.0 55.0% 57.0 39.1% 125.0 88.5% 182.7 38.1% 20.0 13.0% 100.0 13.4% 20.0
Net worth percentile
Less than 25% 79.8% 1.0 75.4% 0.5 2.2% 2.0 6.2% 0.3 * * 3.6% 1.9 2.0% 2.0 14.3% 2.9 7.7% 0.8 * * 6.9% 0.7
25-49.9% 96.1% 9.9 92.0% 2.0 6.5% 5.8 13.2% 0.5 * * 9.3% 3.5 7.2% 7.4 43.1% 11.8 19.3% 4.0 2.3% 9.4 9.5% 2.0
50-74.9% 99.4% 47.2 98.0% 5.8 16.0% 10.4 22.7% 1.0 * * 21.0% 8.0 12.5% 16.0 61.8% 33.5 30.1% 5.0 8.8% 22.0 10.2% 5.0
75-89.9% 100.0% 203.0 99.7% 15.8 24.2% 31.0 28.5% 2.0 3.2% 25.0 39.1% 20.0 32.4% 50.0 77.6% 95.7 36.7% 10.0 15.6% 50.0 11.2% 7.0
90-100% 100.0% 728.8 100.0% 43.0 28.8% 46.0 28.1% 2.5 12.7% 111.1 62.9% 110.0 47.3% 160.0 82.5% 264.0 43.8% 20.0 21.0% 135.0 16.4% 40.0
Family Structure
Single-Headed 91.2% 8.6 87.8% 2.0 11.0% 15.0 10.5% 1.0 1.2% 40.0 13.9% 15.0 11.8% 39.0 35.2% 19.0 20.3% 3.5 6.9% 43.0 12.1% 3.0
Married or Cohabiting 95.7% 39.5 93.9% 5.9 13.9% 15.0 22.8% 1.0 2.3% 80.0 25.6% 15.0 17.4% 45.0 60.2% 49.0 27.0% 9.5 7.5% 45.0 8.9% 5.0
Education
No high school diploma 77.4% 2.2 72.4% 1.1 5.6% 15.0 4.2% 0.5 0.4% 20.0 4.7% 7.5 2.3% 7.2 16.2% 12.4 13.7% 3.2 3.0% 15.0 5.1% 2.0
High school diploma 92.9% 12.0 89.1% 2.5 9.4% 17.5 14.2% 0.6 0.4% 62.0 12.4% 7.5 9.2% 24.9 43.6% 20.5 23.0% 5.0 5.4% 29.0 8.4% 2.8
Some college 96.6% 16.0 94.3% 2.6 12.9% 10.0 19.3% 0.8 0.6% 80.0 17.7% 12.0 12.6% 40.0 47.7% 21.0 23.8% 5.4 6.2% 50.0 10.9% 4.0
College graduate 99.6% 78.2 99.1% 9.2 17.0% 19.0 24.9% 1.0 4.1% 153.5 35.3% 20.0 26.1% 53.0 68.9% 64.3 29.5% 10.0 10.9% 50.0 14.4% 7.0
Race or ethnicity of respondent
Non white or Hispanic 85.0% 5.0 80.6% 1.5 6.0% 12.0 8.5% 0.6 * * 8.0% 5.3 5.0% 18.0 32.9% 16.0 17.4% 5.0 2.1% 40.0 9.4% 2.5
White non-Hispanic 97.2% 36.0 95.5% 5.0 15.3% 16.0 21.1% 1.0 2.5% 80.0 25.5% 18.0 18.9% 45.0 56.1% 41.0 26.8% 7.0 9.2% 45.0 10.2% 5.0
Current work status of head
Working for someone else 94.5% 20.5 92.2% 3.1 9.8% 10.0 20.1% 0.7 0.8% 25.0 19.6% 10.0 13.5% 25.0 57.1% 30.0 21.8% 5.4 5.4% 50.0 9.5% 3.0
Self-employed 96.1% 53.2 94.4% 10.0 14.2% 20.0 18.7% 1.9 4.3% 130.0 31.6% 25.0 22.3% 60.0 54.6% 60.0 29.8% 10.5 7.6% 42.0 15.1% 6.0
Retired 93.6% 26.5 90.4% 4.2 20.2% 25.0 11.4% 3.0 3.5% 90.0 19.0% 45.0 16.2% 75.0 32.9% 47.0 29.7% 5.0 12.8% 45.0 8.4% 10.0
Other not working 79.6% 5.0 76.2% 2.0 7.9% 8.0 14.5% 2.0 * * 14.3% 5.0 10.2% 15.9 24.9% 31.0 10.7% 8.4 * * 11.5% 3.0
Housing status
Renter or other 85.5% 3.0 80.9% 1.1 5.6% 7.0 9.5% 0.7 0.2% 130.0 9.1% 4.5 5.7% 10.0 26.2% 11.0 11.0% 3.0 2.0% 42.0 10.9% 2.0
Owner 97.5% 47.9 96.0% 6.0 15.9% 20.0 21.2% 1.0 2.6% 65.0 25.8% 20.0 19.2% 50.0 60.2% 46.0 30.1% 7.0 9.6% 45.0 9.6% 6.0
* Ten or fewer observations.
Note:  For questions on income, respondents were asked to base their answers on the calendar year preceding the interview. For questions on saving, respondents were asked to base their answers on the year (that is, not specifically the calendar year) preceding the interview. Percentage distributions may not sum to 100 because of rounding.
Source:  Bucks et al. (2006) and Urban Institute tabulations using the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

 

Appendix Exhibit 2.
Non-Financial Assets Held and Median Value of Holdings by
Family Characteristic, 2004

(median values for families holding asset in thousands of 2004 dollars)
Family characteristic Any nonfinancial asset Vehicles Primary residence Other residential property Equity in nonresidential property Business Equity Other
Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median
$1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s
All families 92.5% 147.8 86.3% 14.2 69.1% 160.0 12.5% 100.0 8.3% 60.0 11.5% 100.0 7.8% 15.0
Age of head (years)
Less than 35 88.6% 32.2 82.9% 11.3 41.6% 135.0 5.1% 82.5 3.3% 55.0 6.9% 50.0 5.5% 5.0
35-44 93.0% 151.3 89.4% 15.6 68.3% 160.0 9.4% 80.0 6.4% 42.2 13.9% 100.0 6.0% 10.0
45-54 94.7% 184.5 88.8% 18.8 77.3% 170.0 16.3% 90.0 11.4% 43.0 15.7% 144.0 9.7% 20.0
55-64 92.6% 226.3 88.6% 18.6 79.1% 200.0 19.5% 135.0 12.8% 75.0 15.8% 190.9 9.2% 25.0
65-74 95.6% 161.1 89.1% 12.4 81.3% 150.0 19.9% 80.0 10.6% 78.0 8.0% 100.0 9.0% 30.0
75 or more 92.5% 137.1 76.9% 8.4 85.2% 125.0 9.7% 150.0 7.7% 58.8 5.3% 80.3 8.5% 11.0
Income percentile
Bottom quintile 76.4% 22.4 65.0% 4.5 40.3% 70.0 3.6% 33.0 2.7% 11.0 3.7% 30.0 3.9% 4.5
Second quintile 92.0% 71.1 85.3% 7.9 57.0% 100.0 6.9% 65.0 3.8% 30.0 6.7% 30.0 4.4% 7.5
Third quintile 96.7% 131.2 91.6% 13.1 71.5% 135.0 10.0% 55.0 7.6% 36.0 9.5% 62.5 7.5% 10.0
Fourth quintile 98.4% 197.2 95.3% 19.8 83.1% 175.0 14.0% 100.0 10.6% 47.0 12.0% 150.0 10.4% 10.0
Fifth quintile 99.2% 466.5 94.5% 29.4 93.3% 337.5 28.3% 183.2 16.8% 124.5 25.4% 225.0 12.5% 33.8
80-89.9% 99.1% 281.8 95.9% 25.8 91.8% 225.0 19.3% 98.0 12.8% 60.0 16.0% 100.0 8.3% 17.5
90-100% 99.3% 651.2 93.1% 33.0 94.7% 450.0 37.2% 268.3 20.8% 189.0 34.7% 350.0 16.7% 50.0
Net worth percentile
Less than 25% 73.7% 7.4 69.8% 5.6 15.2% 65.0 * * * * * * 2.9% 3.0
25-49.9% 97.5% 72.4 89.2% 11.9 71.2% 85.0 4.9% 25.6 4.1% 14.9 5.6% 17.5 5.4% 6.0
50-74.9% 99.0% 188.1 92.0% 17.4 93.4% 159.3 12.7% 65.0 8.3% 25.0 11.2% 55.0 7.8% 10.0
75-89.9% 99.8% 360.8 95.2% 22.6 96.2% 250.0 23.1% 100.0 15.1% 73.9 19.9% 150.0 12.3% 25.0
90-100% 99.9% 907.7 93.1% 30.6 96.9% 450.0 45.6% 325.0 28.8% 250.0 40.8% 527.4 18.8% 80.0
Family Structure
Single-Headed 86.3% 83.5 77.0% 7.6 55.1% 120.0 8.5% 65.0 5.1% 45.0 6.0% 75.0 6.6% 10.0
Married or Cohabiting 97.1% 195.3 93.1% 19.6 79.2% 185.0 15.6% 115.0 10.5% 65.0 15.4% 135.0 8.2% 20.0
Education
No high school diploma 81.9% 54.6 70.1% 7.4 56.3% 75.0 5.6% 70.0 4.0% 16.0 4.2% 55.0 2.0% 5.0
High school diploma 92.4% 109.2 87.6% 12.4 64.5% 125.0 8.3% 80.0 6.1% 25.0 10.4% 80.6 5.4% 10.0
Some college 93.3% 137.4 88.2% 13.2 65.8% 154.0 12.2% 86.0 8.1% 80.0 10.7% 150.0 9.4% 10.0
College graduate 96.5% 241.2 90.7% 18.9 79.1% 240.0 19.0% 145.0 11.9% 92.0 15.6% 150.0 11.3% 20.0
Race or ethnicity of respondent
Non white or Hispanic 84.0% 64.1 76.1% 9.8 50.8% 130.0 8.9% 80.0 5.8% 30.0 5.9% 66.7 3.8% 10.0
White non-Hispanic 95.8% 164.8 90.3% 15.7 76.1% 165.0 14.0% 105.0 9.2% 66.0 13.6% 135.0 9.3% 16.5
Current work status of head
Working for someone else 93.8% 141.9 89.7% 14.9 66.5% 160.0 10.4% 88.0 6.8% 40.0 5.8% 50.0 7.1% 10.0
Self-employed 97.5% 335.4 91.2% 21.9 79.1% 248.0 25.8% 141.5 18.7% 125.0 58.1% 174.0 12.9% 30.0
Retired 89.8% 131.7 79.0% 10.1 75.8% 130.0 12.8% 100.0 7.9% 60.0 3.5% 120.0 7.1% 25.0
Other not working 76.3% 60.0 66.9% 10.7 40.0% 130.0 5.4% 86.0 * * 6.9% 25.0 6.4% 20.0
Housing status
Renter or other 75.9% 8.4 73.0% 7.2 . . . . . . 5.4% 80.0 2.4% 56.0 4.3% 50.0 4.6% 8.0
Owner 100.0% 201.6 92.3% 17.5 100.0% 160.0 15.7% 100.0 11.0% 62.0 14.7% 112.8 9.2% 17.5
* Ten or fewer observations. . . . Not applicable.
Note:  For questions on income, respondents were asked to base their answers on the calendar year preceding the interview. For questions on saving, respondents were asked to base their answers on the year (that is, not specifically the calendar year) preceding the interview. Percentage distributions may not sum to 100 because of rounding.
Source:  Bucks et al. (2006) and Urban Institute tabulations using the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

 

Appendix Exhibit 3.
Debt Held and Median Value of Holdings by Family Characteristic, 2004

(median values for families holding debt in thousands of 2004 dollars)
Family characteristic Any debt Home-secured Other residential property Installment loans Credit card balances Other lines of credit Other
Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median
$1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s
All Families 76.4% 55.3 47.9% 95.0 4.0% 87.0 46.0% 11.5 46.2% 2.2 1.6% 3.0 7.6% 4.0
Age of head (years)
Less than 35 79.8% 33.6 37.7% 107.0 2.1% 62.5 59.4% 11.9 47.5% 1.5 2.2% 1.0 6.2% 3.0
35-44 88.6% 87.2 62.8% 110.0 4.0% 75.0 55.7% 12.0 58.8% 2.5 1.5% 1.9 11.3% 4.0
45-54 88.4% 83.2 64.6% 97.0 6.3% 87.0 50.2% 12.0 54.0% 2.9 2.9% 7.0 9.4% 4.0
55-64 76.3% 48.0 51.0% 83.0 5.9% 108.8 42.8% 12.9 42.1% 2.2 0.7% 14.0 8.4% 5.5
65-74 58.8% 25.0 32.1% 51.0 3.2% 100.0 27.5% 8.3 31.9% 2.2 0.4% 4.0 4.0% 5.0
75 or more 40.3% 15.4 18.7% 31.0 1.5% 39.0 13.9% 6.7 23.6% 1.0 * * 2.5% 2.0
Income percentile
Bottom quintile 52.6% 7.0 15.9% 37.0 * * 26.9% 5.6 28.8% 1.0 * * 4.6% 2.0
Second quintile 69.8% 16.1 29.5% 53.3 1.5% 32.5 39.9% 8.0 42.9% 1.9 1.5% 32.5 5.8% 2.7
Third quintile 84.0% 44.7 51.7% 78.0 2.6% 66.0 52.4% 10.8 55.1% 2.2 1.8% 66.0 8.0% 2.3
Fourth quintile 56.6% 93.4 65.8% 97.0 4.1% 62.0 57.8% 13.9 56.0% 3.0 1.8% 62.0 8.3% 3.5
Fifth quintile 89.2% 172.5 76.5% 159.0 11.5% 118.5 52.9% 16.6 48.1% 3.4 2.6% 118.5 11.5% 7.2
80-89.9% 92.0% 136.0 76.8% 133.0 7.5% 78.0 60.0% 15.1 57.6% 2.7 2.6% 78.0 12.3% 5.0
90-100% 86.3% 209.0 76.2% 185.0 15.4% 159.0 45.7% 18.0 38.5% 4.0 2.5% 159.0 10.6% 9.4
Net worth percentile
Less than 25% 64.9% 11.4 12.4% 71.0 * * 47.5% 10.5 40.3% 1.8 1.3% 0.3 6.2% 4.0
25-49.9% 83.8% 44.2 52.8% 75.0 1.4% 26.3 52.4% 9.3 57.9% 2.0 1.7% 1.0 9.4% 2.0
50-74.9% 83.2% 90.1 66.1% 97.0 4.5% 47.0 49.1% 13.3 52.8% 2.5 1.9% 8.0 7.0% 4.0
75-89.9% 74.6% 110.7 61.6% 115.0 5.7% 99.0 40.2% 12.9 40.5% 3.0 1.3% 22.0 7.1% 5.0
90-100% 72.7% 190.8 58.4% 186.1 16.6% 148.0 27.2% 17.5 23.5% 3.0 1.4% 50.0 9.1% 20.0
Family Structure
Single-Headed 67.4% 24.0 32.2% 75.0 2.5% 76.0 36.5% 8.6 41.0% 1.0 1.0% 1.9 6.6% 2.4
Married or Cohabiting 82.3% 86.0 59.2% 105.0 5.1% 99.0 52.9% 13.6 49.9% 7.0 2.0% 2.4 8.4% 5.0
Education
No high school diploma 53.4% 12.0 24.8% 44.0 0.3% 80.0 28.0% 7.0 29.5% 1.2 0.3% 105.0 5.7% 4.0
High school diploma 73.2% 31.0 42.2% 70.0 2.2% 47.0 44.3% 9.0 48.2% 1.9 1.8% 1.5 59.0% 3.0
Some college 84.2% 45.0 48.7% 86.0 4.7% 75.0 49.9% 11.8 54.4% 2.2 1.8% 3.0 10.3% 3.4
College graduate 84.3% 107.2 61.3% 125.0 6.7% 105.0 55.3% 15.4 47.0% 2.7 1.7% 4.0 8.5% 5.0
Race or ethnicity of respondent
Non white or Hispanic 72.5% 30.5 37.4% 83.0 3.0% 66.0 43.2% 9.6 46.7% 1.6 1.1% 0.4 7.3% 3.0
White non-Hispanic 78.0% 69.5 51.9% 98.0 4.4% 87.0 47.0% 12.4 46.0% 2.5 1.7% 4.0 7.8% 4.0
Current work status of head
Working for someone else 86.1% 71.8 56.1% 100.0 4.1% 83.0 55.7% 12.0 54.9% 2.3 1.9% 4.0 9.8% 3.5
Self-employed 81.5% 93.4 59.5% 119.8 10.2% 100.0 43.5% 15.4 44.3% 2.7 3.0% 2.2 5.8% 7.0
Retired 50.7% 15.4 24.6% 42.0 1.2% 79.0 22.8% 7.3 25.9% 1.4 * * 3.9% 3.0
Other not working 70.4% 21.1 30.3% 78.0 * * 45.6% 7.5 41.0% 2.5 * * * *
Housing status
Renter or other 63.4% 7.8 . . . . . . 1.7% 83.0 44.6% 8.7 40.4% 1.5 1.7% 0.5 7.3% 3.0
Owner 82.3% 95.8 69.4% 95.0 5.1% 90.0 46.6% 12.9 48.8% 2.5 5.1% 8.0 7.7% 4.0
*Ten or fewer observations.  . . . Not applicable
Note:  For questions on income, respondents were asked to base their answers on the calendar year preceding the interview. For questions on saving, respondents were asked to base their answers on the year (that is, not specifically the calendar year) preceding the interview. Percentage distributions may not sum to 100 because of rounding.
Source:  Bucks et al. (2006) and Urban Institute tabulations using the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

 

Appendix Exhibit 4.
Ratios of Debt Payments to Family Income by Family Characteristic, 1995-2004
Family Characteristic Aggregate Median of Family Ratios
1995 1998 2001 2004 1995 1998 2001 2004
All Families 14.1% 14.9% 12.9% 14.4% 16.2% 17.9% 16.7% 18.0%
Income Percentile
Bottom quintile 19.1% 18.7% 16.1% 18.2% 13.3% 18.8% 19.2% 19.7%
Second quintile 17.0% 16.5% 15.8% 16.7% 17.5% 17.5% 16.7% 17.4%
Third quintile 15.6% 18.6% 17.1% 19.4% 15.7% 19.4% 17.6% 19.5%
Fourth quintile 17.9% 19.1% 16.8% 18.5% 18.9% 19.5% 18.1% 20.6%
Fifth quintile 13.1% 13.6% 12.6% 13.3% 14.7% 15.8% 14.3% 15.4%
80-89.9% 16.6% 16.8% 17.0% 17.3% 16.8% 17.8% 17.3% 18.1%
90-100% 9.5% 10.3% 8.1% 9.3% 12.6% 13.7% 11.2% 12.7%
Age of Family Head
Less than 35 17.8% 17.2% 17.2% 17.8% 16.8% 16.9% 17.7% 18.0%
35-44 17.2% 17.7% 15.1% 18.2% 18.3% 20.0% 17.8% 20.6%
45-54 15.1% 16.3% 12.8% 15.3% 16.6% 17.9% 17.4% 18.4%
55-64 11.8% 13.4% 10.9% 11.5% 14.2% 17.6% 14.3% 15.8%
65-74 7.2% 8.8% 9.2% 8.7% 12.3% 13.2% 16.0% 15.6%
75 or more 2.5% 4.1% 3.9% 7.1% 2.9% 8.1% 8.0% 12.8%
Net Worth Percentile
Less than 25% 13.4% 15.0% 13.4% 13.0% 11.7% 13.6% 11.5% 13.0%
25-49.9% 18.5% 20.1% 18.0% 19.5% 19.0% 20.0% 20.1% 21.2%
50-74.9% 18.0% 18.3% 16.8% 20.6% 19.3% 20.2% 18.3% 21.4%
75-89.9% 14.0% 14.8% 15.4% 15.1% 15.3% 17.8% 16.8% 17.9%
90-100% 9.0% 10.2% 7.5% 8.5% 12.7% 14.0% 11.2% 12.6%
Housing Status
Renter or other 7.9% 8.2% 7.4% 7.2% 8.1% 8.5% 8.3% 8.2%
Owner 15.6% 16.2% 13.9% 15.6% 20.1% 21.2% 20.0% 21.5%
Family Characteristic Families with debt ratios greater than 40 percent Families with any payment past due sixty days or more
1995 1998 2001 2004 1995 1998 2001 2004
All Families 11.7% 13.6% 11.8% 12.2% 7.1% 8.1% 7.0% 8.9%
Income Percentile
Bottom quintile 27.5% 29.9% 29.3% 27.0% 10.2% 12.9% 13.4% 15.9%
Second quintile 18.0% 18.3% 16.6% 18.6% 10.1% 12.3% 11.7% 13.8%
Third quintile 9.9% 15.8% 12.3% 13.7% 8.7% 10.0% 7.9% 10.4%
Fourth quintile 7.7% 9.8% 6.5% 7.1% 6.6% 5.9% 4.0% 7.1%
Fifth quintile 3.5% 3.2% 2.8% 2.1% 1.9% 2.8% 2.0% 1.3%
80-89.9 4.7% 3.5% 3.5% 2.4% 2.8% 3.9% 2.6% 2.3%
90-100 2.3% 2.8% 2.0% 1.8% 1.0% 1.6% 1.3% 0.3%
Age of Family Head
Less than 35 12.1% 12.8% 12.0% 12.8% 8.7% 11.1% 11.9% 13.7%
35-44 9.9% 12.5% 10.1% 12.6% 7.7% 8.4% 5.9% 11.7%
45-54 12.3% 12.9% 11.6% 13.1% 7.4% 7.4% 6.2% 7.6%
55-64 15.1% 14.0% 12.3% 10.2% 3.2% 7.5% 7.1% 4.2%
65-74 11.3% 18.1% 14.7% 11.6% 5.3% 3.1% 1.5% 3.4%
75 or more 7.4% 21.4% 14.6% 10.7% 5.4% 1.1% 0.8% 3.9%
Net Worth Percentile
Less than 25 10.1% 13.0% 11.6% 10.6% 14.5% 16.1% 17.7% 22.9%
25-49.9 12.9% 15.9% 14.1% 15.8% 8.2% 9.8% 7.2% 11.0%
50-74.9 12.7% 13.0% 11.3% 12.8% 4.4% 5.5% 3.6% 3.2%
75-89.9 9.9% 12.2% 10.7% 9.6% 2.4% 1.0% 0.7% 1.1%
90-100 11.6% 12.4% 8.5% 7.6% 0.7% 2.4% 0.3% 0.1%
Housing Status
Renter or other 5.8% 6.4% 4.2% 4.4% 11.5% 12.8% 14.0% 18.6%
Owner 14.3% 16.5% 14.7% 14.9% 5.1% 6.1% 4.3% 5.6%
Note:  The aggregate measure is the ratio of total debt payments to total income for all families.  The median of family ratios is the median of the distribution of ratios calculated for individual families.
Source:  Bucks et al. (2006) using the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

 

Appendix Exhibit 5.
Percentage of Familes Holding and Median Value of Assets or Debts by Family Characteristic, 2004

(median values for families holding asset or debt in thousands of 2004 dollars)
Family Characteristic Any financial asset Any nonfinancial asset Any asset Any debt Leverage Ratio
Assets over Debts
Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median Percent Median
$1000s $1000s $1000s $1000s
All Families 93.8% 23.0 92.5% 147.8 97.9% 172.9 76.4% 55.3 3.1
Age of Family Head
Less than 35 90.1% 5.2 88.6% 32.2 96.5% 39.2 79.8% 33.6 1.2
35-44 93.6% 19.0 93.0% 151.3 97.7% 173.4 88.6% 87.2 2.0
45-54 93.6% 38.6 94.7% 184.5 98.3% 234.9 88.4% 83.2 2.8
55-64 95.2% 78.0 92.6% 226.3 97.5% 351.2 76.3% 48.0 7.3
65-74 96.5% 36.1 95.6% 161.1 99.5% 233.2 58.8% 25.0 9.3
75 or more 97.6% 38.8 92.5% 137.1 99.6% 185.2 40.3% 15.4 12.0
Income Percentile
Bottom quintile 80.1% 1.3 76.4% 22.4 92.2% 17.0 52.6% 7.0 2.4
Second quintile 91.5% 4.9 92.0% 71.1 97.8% 78.3 69.8% 16.1 4.9
Third quintile 98.5% 15.5 96.7% 131.2 99.8% 154.4 84.0% 44.7 3.5
Fourth quintile 99.1% 48.5 98.4% 197.2 100.0% 289.4 56.6% 93.4 3.1
Fifth quintile 99.9% 236.7 99.2% 466.5 99.9% 808.1 89.2% 172.5 4.5
80-89.9% 99.8% 108.2 99.1% 281.8 99.8% 458.5 92.0% 136.0 3.4
90-100% 100.0% 365.1 99.3% 651.2 100.0% 1157.7 86.3% 209.0 5.5
Net Worth Percentile
Less than 25% 79.8% 1.0 73.7% 7.4 91.7% 7.7 64.9% 11.4 0.7
25-49.9% 96.1% 9.9 97.5% 72.4 100.0% 84.5 83.8% 44.2 1.9
50-74.9% 99.4% 47.2 99.0% 188.1 100.0% 257.3 83.2% 90.1 2.9
75-89.9% 100.0% 203.0 99.8% 360.8 100.0% 600.2 74.6% 110.7 5.4
90-100% 100.0% 728.8 99.9% 907.7 100.0% 1572.6 72.7% 190.8 8.2
Family Structure
Single-Headed 91.2% 8.6 86.3% 83.5 96.5% 83.4 67.4% 24.0 3.5
Married or Cohabiting 95.7% 39.5 97.1% 195.3 99.0% 265.8 82.3% 86.0 3.1
Education
No high school diploma 77.4% 2.2 81.9% 54.6 91.1% 49.9 53.4% 12.0 4.2
High school diploma 92.9% 12.0 92.4% 109.2 98.1% 133.4 73.2% 31.0 4.3
Some college 96.6% 16.0 93.3% 137.4 99.1% 150.5 84.2% 45.0 3.3
College graduate 99.6% 78.2 96.5% 241.2 99.9% 357.0 84.3% 107.2 3.3
Race and Ethnicity
Non-white or Hispanic 85.0% 5.0 84.0% 64.1 94.4% 59.6 72.5% 30.5 2.0
White, Non-Hispanic 97.2% 36.0 95.8% 164.8 99.3% 224.5 78.0% 69.5 3.2
Housing Status
Renter or other 85.5% 3.0 80.9% 1.1 93.3% 12.2 63.4% 7.8 1.6
Owner 97.5% 47.9 96.0% 6.0 100.0% 289.9 82.3% 95.8 3.0
Source:  Bucks et al. (2006) and Urban Institute tabulations using the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

 

Appendix Exhibit 6.
Median and Mean Net Worth by Family Characteristic, 1992 - 2004

(in thousands of 2004 dollars)
Family Characteristic 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 % Change, '92-'04
Median Mean Median Mean Median Mean Median Mean Median Mean Median Mean
All Families 65.4 246.3 70.8 260.8 83.1 327.5 91.7 421.5 93.1 448.2 31.5% 71.9%
Income Percentile
Bottom quintile 5.2 43.9 7.4 54.7 6.8 55.4 8.4 56.1 7.5 72.6 44.4% 65.3%
Second quintile 36.6 85.4 41.3 97.4 38.4 111.5 39.6 121.8 34.3 122.0 -6.2% 42.9%
Third quintile 52.1 133.6 57.1 126.0 61.9 146.6 66.5 171.4 71.6 193.8 37.4% 45.0%
Fourth quintile 98.2 183.9 93.6 198.5 130.2 238.3 150.7 311.3 160.0 342.8 63.0% 86.4%
Fifth quintile 319.1 784.3 297.3 827.4 371.5 1085.5 584.1 1446.7 617.6 1509.7 93.6% 80.9%
80-89.9% 157.4 299.1 157.7 316.8 218.5 377.1 280.3 486.6 311.1 485.0 97.7% 62.1%
90-100% 480.8 1269.6 436.9 1338.0 524.4 1793.9 887.9 2406.7 924.1 2534.4 92.2% 99.6%
Age of Family Head
Less than 35 12.0 59.8 14.8 53.2 10.6 74.0 12.3 96.6 14.2 73.5 18.1% 23.0%
35-44 58.8 175.6 64.2 176.8 73.5 227.6 82.6 276.4 69.4 299.2 18.1% 70.4%
45-54 103.2 353.5 116.8 364.8 122.3 420.2 141.6 517.6 144.7 542.7 40.2% 53.5%
55-64 150.0 447.2 141.9 471.1 148.2 617.0 193.3 775.4 248.7 843.8 65.8% 88.7%
65-74 130.1 379.7 136.6 429.3 169.8 541.1 187.8 717.9 190.1 690.9 46.1% 82.0%
75 or more 114.5 282.4 114.5 317.9 145.6 360.3 161.2 496.2 163.1 528.1 42.4% 87.0%
Education of Family Head
No high school diploma 24.6 92.4 27.9 103.7 24.5 91.4 27.2 109.7 20.6 136.5 -16.4% 47.8%
High school diploma 50.6 147.2 63.9 163.7 62.7 182.9 61.8 192.5 68.7 196.8 35.7% 33.7%
Some college 76.2 227.0 57.6 232.3 85.6 275.5 76.3 303.8 69.3 308.6 -9.1% 35.9%
College graduate 129.8 448.6 128.6 473.7 169.7 612.3 227.2 845.7 226.1 851.3 74.2% 89.8%
Race and Ethnicity
Non-white or Hispanic 15.8 102.1 19.5 94.9 19.3 116.5 19.1 123.8 24.8 153.1 56.8% 50.0%
White, Non-Hispanic 91.9 293.7 94.3 308.7 111.0 391.1 129.6 518.7 140.7 561.8 53.2% 91.3%
Current Work Status of Head
Working for someone else 51.8 161.5 60.3 168.4 61.2 194.8 69.3 240.1 67.2 268.5 29.7% 66.2%
Self-employed 193.7 792.5 191.8 862.8 288.0 1071.3 375.2 1340.6 335.6 1423.2 73.2% 79.6%
Retired 92.9 250.0 99.9 277.2 131.0 356.5 120.4 479.2 139.8 469.0 50.5% 87.6%
Other not working 4.3 70.0 4.5 70.1 4.1 85.8 9.5 191.7 11.8 162.3 171.3% 131.9%
Region
Northeast 84.5 277.2 102.0 308.9 109.3 351.3 98.3 480.0 161.7 569.1 91.4% 105.3%
North Central 75.1 228.1 80.8 244.7 93.1 288.5 111.3 361.6 115.0 436.1 53.1% 91.2%
South 45.5 185.5 54.2 229.5 71.0 309.6 78.6 400.4 63.8 348.0 40.2% 87.6%
West 94.2 335.4 67.4 286.1 71.1 379.1 93.3 468.8 94.8 523.7 0.6% 56.1%
Housing Status
Renter 4.2 50.9 6.0 53.8 4.9 50.4 5.1 58.5 4.0 54.1 -5.2% 6.2%
Owner 130.3 356.6 128.1 373.7 153.2 468.7 182.9 594.8 184.4 624.9 41.5% 75.3%
Net Worth Percentile
Less than 25% 0.7 -0.8 1.2 -0.2 0.6 -2.1 1.2 0.0 1.7 -1.4 158.0% -79.5%
25-49.9% 31.0 33.4 34.7 37.6 37.9 41.6 43.4 47.0 43.6 47.1 40.8% 40.8%
50-74.9% 115.7 119.4 117.1 122.6 139.7 149.1 166.8 176.6 170.7 185.4 47.5% 55.2%
75-89.9% 268.9 288.1 272.3 293.6 357.7 372.6 458.2 478.6 506.8 526.7 88.5% 82.8%
90-100% 880.4 1650.4 836.7 1766.7 1039.1 2244.2 1386.6 2936.1 1430.1 3114.2 62.4% 88.7%
Note: For questions on income, respondents were asked to base their answers on the calendar year preceding the interview. For questions on saving, respondents were asked to base their answers on the year (that is, not specifically the calendar year) preceding the interview. Percentage distributions may not sum to 100 because of rounding.
Source:  Bucks et al. (2006) using the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

Endnotes

[12] A more thorough analysis of data sources is available in the Poor Finances report Assessing Asset Data on Low-Income Households: Current Availability and Options for Improvement (Ratcliffe et al. 2007). 

[13] They use an alternative version of family-sized poverty thresholds devised by a National Academy of Sciences panel, rather than the official U.S. poverty threshold.

 

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