Forced to Walk a Dangerous Line: The Causes and Consequences of Debt in Black Communities

Debt has become a fact of modern American life. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans collectively hold $13 trillion in debt, and the median held by individual households is $60,000. For many, this debt is “good debt”, which enables homeownership or access to education that unlocks wealth-building opportunities and helps pull families through financial shortfalls.

But for millions of others, debt weighs heavily on household balance sheets. Credit leveraged as “good debt” can quickly become difficult to manage. This “troublesome debt” arises as households experience emergencies, unexpected expenses or shortfalls
in their cash flow.

With this understanding in mind, Forced to Walk a Dangerous Line reviews how the racial wealth divide makes debt particularly burdensome for low- and moderate-income African American households, as well as how burdensome debt is further exacerbating the divide.

This report was made possible with the generous support of MetLife Foundation.

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