In their latest policy brief, “Deferred Dreams: How Unmanageable and Abusive Debt Hinder Savings and Economic Security,” AFN Member Southern Bancorp Community Partners (SBCP) explores how historic levels of debt have proved an impediment for Arkansans to achieve their dreams.

Even before the COVID-19 Pandemic, Americans had the highest debt levels ever, after adjusting for inflation. That same story rings true in Arkansas, where debt loads per person are the highest since before the Great Recession. In 2019, over a quarter of all Arkansans had debt in collections, 12 percent were behind on bills, and 18 percent had an account that is 90 days past due.

When debt levels are high, there is little room for savings. As the pandemic has illuminated, liquid savings are an important buffer against economic shocks. However, savings are also the basis to obtain assets, and assets are the key to building wealth and unlocking the American Dream.


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