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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.


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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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