We already knew the struggle to pay back student debt disproportionately affects families with lower income levels more than wealthy families. But this new set of interactive maps lays out another clear implication: It's also about race.
Areas with higher densities of African Americans and Latinos show much higher levels of student loan delinquency than white families, according to a new report from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, using credit reporting data from Experian and income data from the American Community Survey.
They used cities with clearly racially segregated neighborhoods, like in Washington, DC, to show how this works. Zip codes in northeast and southeast DC, which have predominantly larger African-American and Latino populations, match areas with high rates of loan delinquency.
This pattern can also be seen in Los Angeles. The full interactive map can be found here.
This is not surprising
Based on census data, African-American and Latino families have the lowest median incomes in the United States.
In 2014, African-American households had a median income of roughly $35,000, nearly $20,000 less than the national average. Latino households had a median household income of $41,000. Meanwhile, tuition at all institutions has been increasing rapidly.
In their first installment of the interactive maps, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth looked at the correlation between income and student debt, finding unsurprisingly that while higher-income areas have higher debt (people in high-income areas are more likely to go to more expensive schools and pursue graduate degrees), it's the lower-income families with smaller debts that have difficulty paying back the loans.
Student debt is one of the largest sources of household debt, second only to mortgage loans. Americans owe approximately $1.3 trillion in student debt, according to a study from the Brookings Institution.
But the community most affected by the student debt crisis overall: middle-class minorities.
Why middle class? Generally, low-income families are less likely to go to college, or they go to technical colleges or seek need-based federal grants.
- Check out all of the interactive maps from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and read its analysis.
- Vox's Libby Nelson's explanation of the most important fact about student debt.
- Susan M. Dynarski, from the Brookings Institution explains why student debt is not about high debt, but about low earnings.