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A new study shows how much debt residents in major American cities are carrying, and the results are surprising.

Out of the top 20 cities analyzed by credit bureau Experian, Detroit — a municipality mired in bankruptcy woes — has the lowest average amount of combined credit card, auto, personal and student loan debt per person. Detroit residents owe an average of just over $23,600.

“Detroit residents are doing better from a credit perspective with scores increasing, but we definitely recognize that the city has had a major economic crisis over the last few years,” says Experian vice president of analytics Michele Raneri.

Overall, the average debt Americans carry grew by 5% since 2010, and now hovers just under $26,000. Of the municipalities Experian examined, only people in Detroit saw their average debt load drop over the last four years — the others all increased.

This isn’t all bad — the credit bureau points out that economic recovery is what spurs banks to lend more and give people more access to credit.

Following Detroit, Los Angeles and Miami, respectively, carry the least amount of debt per person, while two notoriously pricey Northeastern cities — New York and Boston — had the fourth- and fifth-smallest average debt per person, respectively.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, as they say, so perhaps it’s no surprise that two Texan cities have the most debt of all the major U.S. municipalities: The average debt in Dallas is $28,240, an increase of nearly 8% since 2010, while Houston is the next-highest, with residents carrying an average of just over $28,100 — nearly 11% more since four years ago.

But it’s people in sunny San Diego who have increased their borrowing the most: The average debt load there saw the biggest increase since 2010, jumping just over 11% to $26,423.

Experian also took a look at how people’s credit scores have fared over the last four years. The average score in the cities analyzed was 665 (Experian used the VantageScore for its evaluation), the same as in 2010. Across the nation, though, scores varied widely.

Minneapolis has the highest average credit score, with 702 (out of a possible 850). Phoenix has a lower-than-average 654, but it has the distinction of attaining the largest increase, jumping seven points since 2010.

Both debt-laden Dallas and Houston have average scores of 648, while Detroit comes in with an average score of 667, slightly higher than the national average.


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