According to a study by the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank run by former Clinton White House chief of staff John D. Podesta, the debt of an American family earning $45,000 per year rose 33.1% from 2001 to 2004.  The study was based upon data complied by the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances.  The study concluded that the the increased debt is NOT due to the use of credit cards for "luxury" items but to compensate for the rising costs of health care, housing and education.

The study also noted that real wages, after adjusting for inflation, have been flat since 2001, while the costs of medical care, housing, food, cars and household operations rose 11.2%.  Most importantly, education debt rose 127% between 1992 and 2004, from $3,427 to $7.800, and health-care costs rose due to insurance costs increasing and more employers shifting expenses to workers.