Student Loan Debt Isn't Just a Young Person's Problem

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One big component of the well-documented anxiety young people experience today is student loan debt, but if a recent report from the Federal Reserve is to believed, they're also a major burden on older Americans.

Last month, the Fed's New York branch released a study of the often-talked-about but little-understood student loan market in the U.S. "Relevant data are limited and, for the most part, anecdotal," it write Meta Brown, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Maricar Mabutas, and Wilber van der Klaauw in the report attempting to remedy that knowledge gap.

The finding that surprised us the most: indebtedness from student loans can extend well past 30. The substantial number of thirtysomething and fortysomething Americans still swim in student debt, so much so that the 30- to 39-year-old cohort owes 32.8 percent of all student debt, while the over-40 set collectively owes another 31.9 percent, per the chart above. (Americans collectively owe $870 billion, according to the Fed.) And the collective student-loan bills of those older adults don't appear to be the sum of many negligible outstanding debts. For 30- to 39-year-olds, the average loan balance is $28,500, $5,500 above the overall average. For 40- to 49-year-olds, the average is $26,000.

Part of this burden comes from parents taking out loans to help pay their kids' way through school; another part, scarily, is those older adults' own loans from their college days. In either case, the point is that student debt is as much a problem for older Americans as it is for twentysomethings -- whether or not they make the handsome subjects of magazine covers.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.