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The typical household with student debt pays $160 per month

Figuring out student loan bills can be frustrating.
Figuring out student loan bills can be frustrating.
Julie Thurston Photography/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The headlines about student loan debt often feature people with loans over $100,000. But student debt for a typical household looks somewhat more manageable, at least among people who are already paying back their loans.

The Brookings Institution looked at data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on household finances: The median, or typical, household with debt owes about $160 per month — about 4 percent of their income — and has $13,000 in debt to pay back.

The average, though, is significantly higher: a $242 monthly payment, with $25,721 to pay off. That suggests that a minority of borrowers with lots of debt, probably from graduate degrees, are driving the numbers up.

The study, though, only looked at borrowers who were earning income and making payments on their loans. For those who aren't, which includes at least 16 million federal loan borrowers, the picture could look much worse.