Just Released: The Geography of Student Debt -Liberty Street Economics
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May 14, 2013

Just Released: The Geography of Student Debt

Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Wilbert van der Klaauw, and Joelle Scally

This morning, the New York Fed released its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for 2013 Q1. The report uses the FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel to show that outstanding household debt declined approximately $110 billion (about 1 percent) from the previous quarter. The drop was due in large part to a reduction in housing-related debt and credit card balances. Meanwhile, delinquency rates for each form of consumer debt declined, with the overall ninety-plus day delinquency rate dropping from 6.3 percent to 6.0 percent.

    One of the unique aspects of the FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel, which is itself based on Equifax credit data, is the detail we obtain for each kind of household debt. This quarter, we have taken advantage of the geographic information available in the data set and are introducing a set of maps of our student loan data, which indicate regional variation in several dimensions of student debt. They depict:


  • Student loan borrowers as a share of the population. The population with active student loan debts, or “SL borrowers,” as a share of the population with a credit record varies substantially over space. For example, in Hawaii, less than 12 percent of people with a credit report have student debt, while in the District of Columbia over 25 percent do.

  • Student loan balances per SL borrower. Student indebtedness is significant for SL borrowers in virtually all states. Educational indebtedness per SL borrower ranges from a low of just under $21,000 in Wyoming to a high of over $28,000 in Maryland. Again, Washington, D.C., stands out: the average SL borrower there owes over $40,000. In general, we find SL-borrower debt levels are highest in California and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

  • Percent of balance ninety-plus days delinquent. Delinquency rates show a distinct regional pattern, with states in the south and southwest having generally higher rates than those in the north. The lowest delinquency rate is South Dakota, at just over 6.5 percent, while the highest is in West Virginia, at nearly 18 percent.

    Student loan indebtedness and delinquency continue to generate intense interest and we look forward to sharing data and perspectives that help define the scope of this important issue.

The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the authors.

Andrew Haughwout is a vice president in the Research and Statistics Group.

Donghoon Lee is a senior economist in the Group.

Joelle Scally is an economic analyst in the Group.

Wilbert van der Klaauw is a senior vice president in the Group.
Posted by Blog Author at 11:15:00 AM in Household Finance, Regional Analysis, Student Loans

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Something is amiss -- if Washington DC has such high levels of student debt, carried by such a high proportion of its population -- then why is its 90+ delinquency rate so low?

the graphs in the report have two errors, imo
1) they use equal area rather then equal population (eg in equal area, one pixel on the screen = a fixed area on the ground; in equal pop one pixel = fixed numbr of people)
this greatly distorts our psychologcial perception, as our brains *see* a huge area due to MT, ND, SD, WY, and barely notices cities like LA and NYC
this is just wrong - the psychological consequences are enormous (people don't rationally process data; no one does that)

2) the color palettes are really hard to understand and follow, at least on my screen

why o

Breakdowns by for-profit schools versus not-for-profit schools, and for trade schools versus community colleges versus four-year schools versus graduate would all be interesting, if available.

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Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.

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