Unceasing Debt, Disparate Burdens: Student Debt and Young America

This map was released in September 2020.

Student loan debt now stands at over $1.6 trillion according to estimates released this month by the Federal Reserve, a 75% increase from 10 years ago. Since the Great Recession, both average balances and the number of borrowers have consistently increased across the board. As more borrowers accumulate more debt, they increasingly cannot pay it off. Student debt balances have the character of filling a bathtub in which the drain is blocked.

This map and its accompanying in-depth analysis focus on the age group that is suffering the most from the student debt crisis—young adults aged 18–35. By examining the interaction between student loan balances, geography, income, and tuition, we seek to demystify the crisis and the year-over-year trends post-recession to 2019. To see more work from our Millennial Student Debt series, check out our MSD landing page.

Click on an area to freeze the informational panel and explore the statistics and institutions for that zip. Happy mapping!

ZCTA
Congressional Districts
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Public
Private not-for-profit
Private for-profit
Bachelor Degree
Associate Degree
Below Associate Degree
Schools appear at higher zoom levels.
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Public
Private not-for-profit
Private for-profit
Bachelor Degree
Associate Degree
Below Associate Degree
Schools appear at higher zoom levels.

Summary Statistics

Between the 2008–09 and 2018–19 academic years, the higher education industry has undergone major changes: the wave of post-recession enrollment, a boom and bust of for-profit institutions, traditional not-for-profit higher ed adopting for-profit business strategies, and a funding crisis coupled with bloating costs borne by students and increasing enrollment concentration across schools. As these shifts unfolded, the volume of student debt ballooned from $675 billion at the end of 2008 to over $1.6 trillion in 2019.

We have compiled data on most of these issues and summarized key statistics below. Higher education institutional summary statistics look at trends in the country for schools that have physical campuses as sourced from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Zip-level summary statistics look at trends across the country in income, indebtedness, and institutional choice. Student loan data is sourced from a repeated cross-sectional credit archive sample on 18–35 year-olds with student loan activity conducted by Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Income and population statistics are sourced from the American Community Survey. Concentration, enrollment, and school prices at the ZCTA-level are calculated according to 45 minute commuting distances. All tables are reproducible with the data that’s available for download.

Student Debt by State - how does your state fare against others?

Student debt samples were grouped to common census tracts, appended to demographic data, and then aggregated to state-level.

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About Our Researchers

This project was produced by the Higher Education Finance Team at Jain Family Institute. Principal researchers were Laura Beamer, Francis Tseng, and Eduard Nilaj, with additional research from Jack Gross, Maya Adereth, and Marshall Steinbaum.

About Our Sources

This analysis uses school-reported Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data from the final releases for the academic years of 2008–09 to 2017–18, and from the provisional release for the academic year 2018–2019. For median income and population estimates, we used data from the American Community Survey. For young-adult student debt balances, we used Experian’s consumer credit archives. School isochrone creation for all driving distances was made using OpenStreetMap. Mapping was done with MapBox and the US Census Bureau’s 2018 TIGER/Line Shapefiles. For institutions in the 2008–2009 years as well as all branch campuses, latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates were determined using Geocod.io. Median income, school prices, and debt values were adjusted to 2019 dollars using the Federal Reserve Consumer Price Index (all items) data.

Download the Data

Methodology

The academic years represented here are from 2008–2009 to 2018–2019. For more information on the implications of the map and our preliminary findings, read our report here. Below, find explanations of all variables.

Variables derived for each ZCTA:

Clear-cut variables per ZCTA:

Exclusion Criteria:

Citations