Millennials and Student Debt: We Knew They Were Wrong!

Millennials & Student Debt: We Knew They Were Wrong! | Keeping Current Matters

For almost a year now, we have been trying to debunk the myth that student debt is keeping the vast majority of Millennials from purchasing a home.

We explained that Millennials have purchased more homes over a recent twelve month period than any other generation as was reported by the National Association of Realtors).

We explained that the homeownership rate of people currently between the ages of 25-29 is 34.3%. That is higher than the 33.6% rate members of the previous generation (people currently between the ages of 45-49) achieved when they were that age (as per John Burns Consulting).

We explained that a recent survey showed that almost three out of every four (74%) young adults between the ages of 18-34 plan to buy a home in the next five years with 32% planning to do it in the next twelve months.

However, no matter how hard we tried, the same recourse was trumpeted back at us – What about student debt?

The good news is that the real facts about student debt are coming to light. Last week, The New York Times posted an article titled The Reality of Student Debt Is Different from the Clichés. This article went into great depth regarding the findings of a new study just released by the Brookings Institution, Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon? which looked at data through 2010. The NYT article quoted key elements of the report:

  • 58% of young-adult households have less than $10,000 in debt. An additional 18% have between $10,000 and $20,000
  • 36% of households with people between the ages of 20 and 40 had education debt, up from 14% in 1989. Some of the increase stems from the good news that more people are going to college.
  • Taking financial aid into account, the average tuition at private (nonprofit) colleges has not increased any faster than overall inflation over the last decade.
  • Because the incomes of college graduates have grown since the early 1990s, the share of income that a typical student debtor has to devote to loan payments is only marginally higher than it was in the early 1990s — and somewhat lower than it was in late 1990s. It was 3.5% in 1992, 4.3% in 1998 and 4% in 2010.
  • The burden for the people with the most debt is significantly lower today than two decades ago. Someone at the 90th percentile of debt had to devote 15% of their income to repayment in 2010, down from 20% in 1992.

Bottom Line

The authors of the actual study put it simply in their conclusion:

“Despite the widely held belief that circumstances for borrowers with student loan debt are growing worse over time, our findings reveal no evidence in support of this narrative. In fact, the average growth in lifetime income among households with student loan debt easily exceeds the average growth in debt, suggesting that, all else equal, households with debt today are in a better financial position than households with debt were two decades ago. Furthermore, the incidence of burdensome monthly payments does not appear to have become more widespread over the last two decades.”