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Appetite for credit card debt grows

70% of low- and middle-income families use plastic as safety net, survey finds

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More American families are turning to credit cards as their financial safety net, citing skyrocketing costs, dwindling savings and stagnant wages, according to a report released this week by Demos and the Center for Responsible Lending. The report, "The Plastic Safety Net: The Reality Behind Credit Card Debt in America," presents new findings from a national survey on credit card debt among low- and middle-income households -- those whose incomes fell between 50 percent and 120 percent of local median income. The survey provides new information about why households are in credit card debt, how long they have carried their debt and the impact this debt has had on their economic security. Research shows that credit card debt in America nearly tripled in the 1990s and has increased 31 percent since 2000. Americans now owe some $800 billion in credit card debt. In addition, owing largely to job instability and medical costs, bankruptcies rose from 616,000 in 1989 to over 1.8 million i...