Young families are defined as headed by someone under 40. Their student loan debt has risen significantly.

Doug Lederman of Inside Higher Ed reports.

Young Families and Student Debt

Studies that show student loan debt increasing are a dime a dozen these days. But while a new report from the Federal Reserve Board reinforces the idea that more Americans are taking on more debt to finance their postsecondary education, it also suggests a slowing of that trend in the last three years.

The Fed’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, a version of which is released every three years, also offers an in-depth look at the student loan debt accumulated by young Americans (those families headed by someone under 40), revealing that both the proportion of such families with student debt and the amount they’ve incurred have nearly doubled since 2001.

Most forms of debt are in decline. The board’s survey showed that for all families, the median debt declined by 20 percent, and the mean debt of those families with debt fell by 13 percent. The dip was driven mostly by a drop in the proportion of families with home-secured debt, and a nearly 20 percent decrease in families’ median and mean credit card balances from 2010 to 2013.

Student loan debt goes against that trend. Exactly 20 percent of all families had an education loan in 2013, up from 19.2 in 2010. The median value of the loans held by those families was $16,000 in 2013, up from $13,900 in 2010. The mean debt rose by 5 percent, to $28,900 from $27,500.

The report also takes a deeper look specifically at the impact of debt over a longer period of time on families headed by someone 40 or younger. It finds that the fraction of such families with education debt grew to 38.8 percent in 2013 from 22.4 percent, and that the mean debt amount for those families that had debt grew to $29,800 from $16,900 (the median debt grew by a similar proportion, to $16,800 from $10,500).