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What types of debt do Americans consider unacceptable in a partner?

Survey findings estimate that more than 3 in 4 Americans consider credit card debt unacceptable in a partner.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, household debt was at an all-time high between 2004 and the third quarter of 2017, when it totaled $12.96 trillion. This is an increase of $280 billion from 2008’s third-quarter peak during that year’s financial crisis.

Many different types of credit commitments contribute to overall household debt, and we weigh each differently according to how we prioritize their importance.

Attempting to dig deep into the details, surveyed 2,000 Americans to find out which types of debt we find most unacceptable in a partner.

Our survey revealed that of household debts, Americans find credit card debt most unacceptable in a partner — with 77.55% of our respondents saying debt on plastic is most distasteful. Payday loans closely followed at 77.35%.

Some 3 in 4 Americans may not fully appreciate the value a college degree can provide: 76.20% (about 187.14 million) name student loans an unacceptable debt, finding an average $51,000 in debt objectionable. (The good news is that only 1 in 4 students owes $43,000 or more in student loans, according to a 2016 report from the Pew Research Center.)

More Americans find it harder to accept a partner’s need to borrow money for medical purposes than they do for a business loan. Americans find business loans the most tolerable type of debt, with an estimated 70.90% considering borrowing for a business unacceptable in a partner, followed by home equity loans at 71.25% and medical bills at 72.20%.

Debt Average amount considered unacceptable Proportion of respondents who consider each debt unacceptable
Student loan $51,000 76.20%
Mortgage $305,745 72.85%
Payday loan $1,830 77.35%
Auto loan $27,298 72.55%
Family and friends $6,092 73.95%
Credit card $11,525 77.55%
Medical bill $35,221 72.20%
Home equity loan $77,193 71.25%
Personal loan $25,905 72.80%
Business loan $153,166 70.90%



When it comes to gender, there isn’t much difference between the types of debt each consider unacceptable in a partner. The top three most unacceptable debts for both genders are consistent: credit card, payday loans and student loans. The most accepted loans are again business loans, home equity loans, and medical bills, which for men tied with money owed to family and friends.
Debt Proportion of women who consider each debt unacceptable Proportion of men who consider each debt unacceptable
Student loan 75.69% 76.73%
Mortgage 72.35% 73.37%
Payday loan 77.06% 77.65%
Auto loan 72.35% 72.76%
Family and friends 75.49% 72.35%
Credit card 77.75% 77.35%
Medical bill 72.06% 72.35%
Home equity loan 71.27% 71.22%
Personal loan 72.65% 72.96%
Business loan 70.78% 71.02%



More baby boomers than any other generation consider all debts except student loans unacceptable in a partner. Whereas millennials are least tolerant of student loans, more than 4 in 5 of them consider it unacceptable in a partner.

Gen Xers appear the most tolerant generation when it comes to debt in any form. However, Gen X finds payday loans (74.67%) slightly more unacceptable than credit cards (74.01%). Baby boomers are consistent with the general population trend: 81.36% find credit cards most unacceptable, followed by payday loans (80.83%) and student loans (76.96%). The most unacceptable loans for millennials are student loans at 80.04%, credit cards at 77.19% and payday loans at 76.17%.

Debt Proportion of baby boomers who consider each debt unacceptable Proportion of Gen Xers who consider each debt unacceptable Proportion of millennials who consider each debt unacceptable
Student loan 76.96% 72.96% 80.04%
Mortgage 75.23% 69.53% 74.34%
Payday loan 80.83% 74.67% 76.17%
Auto loan 75.63% 68.47% 74.13%
Family and friends 76.43% 70.71% 75.15%
Credit card 81.36% 74.01% 77.19%
Medical bill 76.17% 68.34% 72.10%
Home equity loan 74.97% 66.75% 72.51%
Personal loan 76.30% 68.60% 73.93%
Business loan 74.30% 66.49% 72.51%


We calculated these figures from an October 2017 survey of 2,000 American adults commissioned by and conducted by global research provider Pureprofile.

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