The Geography of Student Debt
Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Wilbert van der Klaauw, and Joelle Scally
May 14, 2013



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.

Category: Think Tank

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2 Responses to “The Geography of Student Debt”

  1. a2ricedgti says:

    American consumer debt levels look insane to me. Just mind boggling. I wonder how other countries look.

    If the person who won the largest lottery ever got *really* lucky and won the same jackpot 1100 more times (s)he could pay off everybody’s credit cards. Or 1300 times and pay off auto loans. Though it would take 1650 wins to pay off the student loan debt, which seems kind of ridiculous.

  2. eroldictat says:

    Consumer is deleveraging, man. Don’t need to win the lottery if your cumulative wealth as a nation exceeds your debts by $69 trillion. Yes that’s right trillion. Excluding primary residence home equity its still $17 trillion. Don’t let the big numbers on the debt side scare you…at least not until you look at the bignumbers on the asset side too…