How Much Debt Does the Average Dallas County Resident Carry?

(Courtesy The Urban Institute)

A look at student loan and medical debt across the nation reveals that how much debt a person carried boils down to quite a bit — especially when it comes to race. And that debt has become one of the top five barriers to homeownership.

The Urban Institute’s study of debt — specifically, student loans and medical bills — has some illuminating data when it comes to Dallas County.

In Dallas County, 48 percent of all debt is in collections. White citizens carry about 25 percent of obligations in arrears, while non-white citizens account for a whopping 55 percent.

Median student loan debt in the county is $16,828. White citizens carry more than $24,000 in student loan debt, while predominately nonwhite zipcodes carry about $15,000. But what tells a deeper story is the amount in collections. Across the county, two percent of the county’s student loan debt is in collections. Among white people, it’s one percent.

Among nonwhite citizens, it’s three percent.

While nonwhite citizens have less debt, what they do have constitutes a larger percentage of their income. The average household income in Dallas County is a little more than $79,000. Nonwhite Dallasites have an average household income of $58,243, while white people with student loan debt have an average household income of $111,379.

The starkest differences came when the institute looked at medical bills. Twenty-seven percent of all medical debt in the county is in collections, and 32 percent of all non-white citizen medical billing is in collections, while a mere 13 percent of white medical debt is in collections.

(The Urban Institute)

Last week, the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the Communities Foundation of Texas released the Dallas Economic Opportunity Assessment. Nearly half of the student loan debt carried in Dallas County is held by 393,000 residents with subprime and deep subprime credit — individuals who will be harder pressed to pay those loans back, especially if financial disaster strikes (we’ll have more on that assessment in later articles).

“Prime borrowers, with scores 680 and above, have an average serious delinquency rate close to zero,” the assessment explained. “Deep subprime borrowers, with scores below 550, have serious delinquency rates over 30 percent.”

“While a little over half of Dallasites have prime credit, nearly 30 percent – or 393,000 borrowers – have subprime or deep subprime scores with the bulk of delinquencies attributed to auto and student loans.”


(Dallas Economic Opportunity Assessment)

Credit card debt is also increasing across the country. Last year, NerdWallet’s assessment of credit obligations revealed that the average household carrying a credit card balance owes almost $16,000. Households with any kind of credit obligations (including mortgages) owe about $134,000 on average.

In Dallas County, 52 percent of adult residents have credit card balances, with an average balance of $5,461, according to the DEOA. Only 20 percent have a mortgage, with an average balance of $129,633.

(Dallas Economic Opportunity Assessment)

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s 2018 Financial Literacy Survey revealed that one in four Americans admit they do not pay all their bills on time and nearly one in ten ( now have debts in collection. The NFCC’s survey revealed that almost half of the 79 percent U.S. adults who tried to purchase a home in the last year faced barriers — and poor credit history was responsible for 13 percent of respondents not purchasing a home, and 14 percent said existing debt was holding them back as well.

Bethany Erickson is the education, consumer affairs, and public policy columnist for Contact her at

2 Comment

  • Excellent and important article by Bethany. Financial wealth and earnings gap in Dallas and surrounding counties likely will have serious civil and political implications for the region. The impact on public education funding and quality is especially worrisome.

  • I’m surprised only 20% have a mortgage. It makes me wonder how many people rent and how many have their mortgage paid off.
    Also, the 31% auto loan stat is lower than I would have guessed and I’m curious about how many lease and how many own their car outright.