New study shows how student loan debt worsens economic inequality for Black people
According to a new study titled, “Racial Disparities in Student Debt and the Reproduction of the Fragile Black Middle Class,” student debt is widening the wealth gap between white and Black Americans.
The study sampled its data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997 Cohort, a national survey of over 8,900 participants. While student loan repayment and education debt is a concern for all college student borrowers, African Americans incur the most debt.
Researchers concluded that the racial wealth inequality compounds on average 7% every year after student borrowers graduate from college. African Americans have 85% more student debt than white Americans due to challenging repayment options for lower income students. White Americans are able to repay their debt down 10% a year on average, while African Americans were only able to pay it down 4%. Due to this, 15 years after college, African Americans have 185% more student loan debt.
Black families tend to begin with a lower net worth than white families. In addition, the study notes that while Black youth are given more access over the past years, they “have made these gains on exploitative terms,” such as needing bigger private loans with high interest rates and few consumer protections. The study describes this as “predatory inclusion.”
“Black Americans now have more access to homeownership than they did, but it’s largely on predatory terms,” explains Jason Houle, a co-author of the study. “This similar thing goes on in the student loan market.”
A college education can be a unique economic risk to African Americans working to secure long-term economic stability. “The racial wealth gap is both the biggest and has grown the fastest among those with a college education,” Houle says. “We point to student loan debt as potentially one thing that explains why that’s happened.”