Does Student Loan Debt Contribute to Racial Wealth Gaps? A Decomposition Analysis
Forthcoming Journal of Consumer Affairs
34 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2018 Last revised: 25 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 21, 2019
There is evidence of a large and growing student debt burden over the last decade. Previous research has shown that the presence of student debt jeopardized the short-term financial wealth of U.S. households during the Great Recession. We examine the effects of student loan use on the wealth of U.S. households post-recession, using recent data from the 2013 and 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances. We find that mean 2016 wealth for households with no outstanding student debt is more than four times higher than households with student debt. We find that living in a household at the 15th, 30th, 50th, 70th, and 85th percentile of the wealth distribution with student debt is associated with a 80%, 49%, 37%, 35%, and 36% wealth loss compared with a similar household with no student debt. Our decomposition results suggest that student loan use can explain between 3-7% of the Black-White wealth gap across the wealth distribution but is insignificant in explaining the Hispanic-White wealth gap.
Keywords: student loans, consumer debt, wealth inequality, racial disparities, educational finance
JEL Classification: D14, H81, I22, I24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation