Race and Gender Effects of Student Loan Debt

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According to the latest report from the Federal Reserve, U.S. student loan debt totaled $1.438 trillion at the end of the first quarter of 2017, up by $32 billion compared to the fourth quarter of last year and $80 billion compared with the first quarter of 2016. That’s also about $320 billion more than total U.S. debt related to car loans.

How much does an average student borrow to get a four-year degree? After graduation and three years in the workforce, how much does an average student still owe on the student loan debt? Are there differences by race or gender?

These are the questions that LendEDU, a marketplace for student loans and student loan refinancing, set out to answer in a survey of more than 1,400 college graduates between the ages of 25 and 54.

According to the survey’s results, the average debt upon graduation was $39,165, and after three years the average amount still outstanding was $30,857. LendEDU also made some general observations about student borrowers:

White college students have the biggest discrepancy between male and female graduates. On average, white male students graduate with about 33% more debt than their white female peers. Interestingly, white males graduate with the most debt of any of our subgroups, and white females graduate with the second least amount of debt. As a whole, females tended to graduate with less debt than their male counterparts, except for black females who had $272 more in debt than black males. Asian males graduated with the second most debt, just $253 on average less than white males. On the other side, hispanic/latino women graduated with the least amount of debt; they have $564 less to pay off than white women.

Nearly half (45%) of all students said they received no financial support from their parents and another 35% said they received “a little” help from their parents. Exactly half of women received no help from their parents, compared with 43% of men who received no parental help.

Asian students received the most parental help, with 27% receiving half or more of their college costs from their parents and just 29% receiving no help at all. More than half (53%) of Hispanic/Latino students received no parental aid, while 49% white and black students said they got no help from their parents.

The impact of student loan debt after graduation affected different groups differently, but overall, more than half of both genders said that student debt made it more difficult for them to save for retirement, meet daily expenses or start a small business.

By race, more than half also felt that student debt hindered their ability to save, meet expenses or start a small business. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of whites said student loan debt made it tough to save for retirement, a much higher proportion than for any other group. Some 68% of whites felt that student debt made it difficult to meet expenses, and 59% of Asians felt that student debt hindered their ability to start a small business.

A full report on the survey is available at the LendEDU website.