Over the past two decades or so, the percentage of U.S. households with outstanding student loan debt has more than doubled, from 9% in 1989 to 19% in 2010. In the same period, the average amount of that debt has risen from $9,634 in 1989 to $26,682 in 2010.
The data comes from the Pew Center and is included in its report, “A Record One-in-Five Households Now Owe Student Loan Debt.”
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the households with the lowest income owe the most as a percentage of household income. And 40% of households headed by persons under 35 years old have outstanding student loans.
The amounts borrowed by the heaviest borrowers have also jumped. In 2007, 10% of student borrowers owed more than $54,238. Just three years later, 10% of student debtors owed more than $61,894.
Another interesting point in the Pew study is that while higher income households have been paying off their debts in the period between 2007 and 2010, the bottom two quintiles in income groups actually have increased their total debt burdens. In 2007, for example, the lowest quintile (less than $21,044 in income) owed a mean of $17,579 in total household debt, while the highest quintile (more than $146,792 in income) owed a mean of $328,287. By 2010, debt among the lowest quintile had risen to $26,779 and debt among the top quintile had fallen to $327,912.
The Pew Center study is available here.