Chart of the Day: Student Loan Debt Crowding Out Mortgages

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


A new report from the New York Fed describes a disturbing trend: student loan debt has increased so much that it’s crowding out the ability of college graduates to buy homes. As the chart on the right shows, young workers with student loan debt—most of whom are college grads—used to take on mortgage debt at a higher rate than the rest of the population. This made sense, since they generally had higher incomes and better career prospects.

But that’s been changing over the past few years. In 2012, for the first time, those without student loan debt actually took out mortgages at a higher rate than those with student loan debt. Annie Lowrey writes about this in the New York Times today:

“It is a new thing, a big social experiment that we’ve accidentally decided to engage in,” said Kevin Carey, the director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, a research group based in Washington. “Let’s send a whole class of people out into their professional lives with a negative net worth. Not starting at zero, but starting at a minus that is often measured in the tens of thousands of dollars. Those minus signs have psychological impact, I suspect. They might have a dollars-and-cents impact in what you can afford, too.”

Obviously there are other things going on here too. The housing crash may have had more of an impact on college grads, who decided to stay out of the market until it hit bottom. They also might have internalized the lessons of high debt levels better.

But spiraling loan debt probably plays a role too. This is one of those issues that continues to bedevil me, since I think there’s a good case to be made that college is something individuals should pay for. It’s going to reward them with lots of extra income, after all, so why should anyone else help subsidize it?

But as reasonable as that sounds, it’s self-defeating in the end. Yeah, a college education is a boon for the person getting the education. But it’s even more of a boon for society overall to have a big pool of college-educated workers. And it’s a boon to have college-educated workers who don’t spend the first decade of their working lives in a defensive crouch. This is an accidental experiment that’s gone too far. The problem is, I’m not sure what we should do about it. Returning to the era in which state universities provided good quality, low-cost educations would sure be a start, though.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate