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Coloradans' debt levels top national average

By: WAYNE HEILMAN
August 30, 2011
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Colorado has higher consumer debt levels than the national average but lower delinquency rates for most types of consumer loans, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

The average total consumer debt per person, which doesn’t include mortgage debt, in Colorado declined slightly during the second quarter to nearly $20,000 but remained 17.7 percent higher than the national average of $17,000, according to the Consumer Credit Report Colorado published on the bank’s website. Much of the difference between the national and state numbers results from higher levels of revolving, or credit card, debt in Colorado that at $10,100 are 31.2 percent higher than the national average.

“I really don’t know why Colorado has higher debt levels than the nation because the state’s economic problems aren’t any worse than the nation as a whole,” said Kelly Edmiston, a senior economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and author of the Colorado report and six others he did for Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming, which also are served by the bank. “Debt levels in Colorado seem to fluctuate more than other states. It could be a result of a more transient and younger population.”

Despite higher debt levels, delinquency rates among Coloradans for auto loans and mortgages are lower than the national average. Just 2.1 percent of all auto loans and 6.3 percent of mortgages were delinquent at the end of the second quarter, compared to 3.4 percent of auto loans and 10.9 percent of mortgages nationally.

Delinquency rates among Colorado residents for student loans and credit card balances were both higher than the national average at 13.5 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, and the rate of personal bankruptcy also was higher than the national average at 148 of every 10,000 residents.

Mortgage delinquency rates across the state were second lowest in Colorado Springs among the four metropolitan areas along the Front Range at 6.2 percent, and the percentage of seriously delinquent mortgages — those three months or more past due or in foreclosure — also were the second-lowest among the four metro areas at 3.4 percent. Data for other types of consumer debt by metro area were not available.

The data in Edmiston’s report come from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, credit reporting bureau Equifax, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and Lender Processing Services Inc. He said the bank plans to use the data to identify gaps in access to credit and financial services.

Call the writer at 636-0234.

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