The share of older Americans with housing debt has doubled over the last 20 years, rising from 15.3 percent in 1995 to 32.7 percent in 2016.

The analysis used data from the Survey of Consumer Finances to examine the effects of a variety of factors on the growth in seniors’ household debt. Some factors were demographic, including race, income, wealth, the age at which homeowners took out mortgages, the rate of homeownership, the number of years the homeowner owned the property and home purchase price.

The remaining factors included loan term length, whether the homeowner refinanced their mortgage and whether the homeowner extracted equity from their home.

Spader’s analysis found that, all told, demographic factors only account for about 25 percent of the growth in debt. Far bigger contributors were “mechanisms that increase the incidence of debt conditional on the number of years that households have owned their homes,” Spader wrote.

One such mechanism is refinancing. Term refinancings have nearly quadrupled over the last two decades, with the share of older households who had refinanced mortgages tripling to 10.7 percent in 2016 from 3.4 percent in 1995.

Others suggest that older Americans are increasingly turning to refinance and longer-term loans to live on.


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