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


[1] These and additional asset data limitations are discussed in detail in the Poor Finances series report Assessing Asset Data on Low-Income Households: Current Availability and Options for Improvement (Ratcliffe et al. 2007), available online at

[2] Asset accumulation over the life cycle will be the topic of a future report in the Poor Finances series, Asset Building over the Life Course.

[3] Married or cohabiting, in these Survey of Consumer Finances findings, should be interpreted as a married couple sharing a home and finances or an unmarried couple sharing a home and finances.

[4] The year to which most responses to the SCF 2004 survey pertain.

[5] Installment borrowing refers to consumer loans that have fixed payments over a fixed term. Common examples of installment borrowing are automobile loans, student loans, and loans for furniture, appliances, and other consumer durables.

[6] Debt levels reflect the median value among only those families who hold a particular debt.

[7] Note that marital status can change over time and that this graph shows a snapshot at a point in time. One might get a different picture if the graph showed never married versus always married.

[8] See Historical Income Tables, Table H-6, All Races by Median and Mean Income, 1975-2003, U.S. Bureau of the Census, accessed in March 2006.

[9] Furthermore, Social Security disability and survivors benefits are financed by worker payroll contributions, require two years of contributions for workers or their survivors to be eligible, are an entitlement, and are paid out based on a formula related to average earnings. To consider Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Food Stamps, Medicaid and similar welfare benefits as wealth is less sound as these benefits are not financed out of payroll taxes, have constrained eligibility, and vary widely by state and family type.

[10] These housing values are taken from the 1992 HRS and, while adjusted to 2004 price levels, do not fully reflect the run-up in housing values since then.

[11] The most recent bankruptcy legislation passed in the 109th Congress (April 20, 2005) and is entitled the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. The legislation is targeted to consumer protections for retirement and education savings, limitations on luxury goods, general business and small business provisions, and tax provisions, which tend to affect upper-income households more than lower-income households.

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