Most economists will tell you that America is credit obsessed as we were responsible for both the conception and proliferation of credit cards. The revolution of computers and on-line banking, allowing for our economy to move towards a card based system instead of cash based economy, also paved the way for more consumer debt.
In fact, until 2008 we had an expansion of consumer credit for 20 years in a row. Our debt problem especially increased in the early and mid 2000s, as from 2000 to 2009 the ratio of aggregate debt compared to consumer income increased from 100% to 150%. This vast amount of debt intensified the negative events of the financial crisis to the average American consumer*.
However, as a result Americans decided it may be time to deleverage and have done so relatively quickly. From a high of 150% debt to income ratio mentioned previously, Americans have now dropped below 130%. Likewise, they have also decreased the number of open credit accounts from an average of 6.5 per person in 2008 to 5.2 now, a 12 year low. Lastly, the number of Americans with no credit cards has increased from 16% to 24%*.
Despite the large consequences of the financial crisis, an overall consumer deleveraging of credit may help benefit the country in the long term. Creating a more financially responsible American consumer could be a silver lining in the middle of the harsh realities of the 2008 crisis we are still dealing with.
*Yuliya Demyanyk and Matthew Koepke, 2012. American Cut Their Debt The Big Picture