Liberty Street Economics

« | Main | »

June 26, 2014

From Our Archive: Student Debt in Perspective

The Editors

We read with interest a new Brookings Institution report, Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?, assessing the weight of the student debt burden. It was also pleasing to see the New York Times, several of our Twitter followers, and others citing work on this blog in counterpoint.

    As part of our policy responsibilities at the New York Fed, we track the landscape of consumer credit, including student loans, using a unique data set developed here. A team of microeconomists described our approach in a March 2012 blog piece on “Grading Student Loans,” and reported key metrics such as the total outstanding student loan balance, averages balances per borrower by age group, and delinquencies at that time. Much of that data is updated quarterly here.

    We also publish related analysis on the effect that growing student debt is having on the wider economy. For example, Meta Brown and Sydnee Caldwell took a look at how extensive debt affects young borrowers’ participation in other economic activity in “Young Student Loan Borrowers Retreat from Housing and Auto Markets.” Brown, Caldwell, and Sarah Sutherland updated that analysis in May.

    It is important to note that the Brookings report relies on borrower-reported data in the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to track the evolution of student debt levels. Analysis on our blog is based on the FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel (CCP), a data set sourced from lender-side information in Equifax credit reports. Our economists recently examined the correspondence between borrower- and lender-reported debts, finding SCF and CCP debt patterns to be quite similar, but with noteworthy exceptions for aggregate credit card debt and aggregate student debt. They report that the aggregate student debt implied by the SCF is roughly 75 percent of that implied by the CCP and other sources. For more detail, check out “Do We Know What We Owe? A Comparison of Borrower- and Lender-Reported Consumer Debt” in our Staff Reports series.

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.

About the Blog

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.

The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.

Liberty Street Economics does not publish new posts during the blackout periods surrounding Federal Open Market Committee meetings.

The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.

Economic Research Tracker

Image of NYFED Economic Research Tracker Icon Liberty Street Economics is available on the iPhone® and iPad® and can be customized by economic research topic or economist.

Economic Inequality

image of inequality icons for the Economic Inequality: A Research Series

This ongoing Liberty Street Economics series analyzes disparities in economic and policy outcomes by race, gender, age, region, income, and other factors.

Most Read this Year

Comment Guidelines


We encourage your comments and queries on our posts and will publish them (below the post) subject to the following guidelines:

Please be brief: Comments are limited to 1,500 characters.

Please be aware: Comments submitted shortly before or during the FOMC blackout may not be published until after the blackout.

Please be relevant: Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been reviewed to ensure that they are substantive and clearly related to the topic of the post.

Please be respectful: We reserve the right not to post any comment, and will not post comments that are abusive, harassing, obscene, or commercial in nature. No notice will be given regarding whether a submission will or will
not be posted.‎

Comments with links: Please do not include any links in your comment, even if you feel the links will contribute to the discussion. Comments with links will not be posted.

Send Us Feedback

Disclosure Policy

The LSE editors ask authors submitting a post to the blog to confirm that they have no conflicts of interest as defined by the American Economic Association in its Disclosure Policy. If an author has sources of financial support or other interests that could be perceived as influencing the research presented in the post, we disclose that fact in a statement prepared by the author and appended to the author information at the end of the post. If the author has no such interests to disclose, no statement is provided. Note, however, that we do indicate in all cases if a data vendor or other party has a right to review a post.