Student Loan Debt by Age

Student Loan Debt by Age

Student loans, like different main money owed, can comply with a borrower for a good portion of their life. Additionally, loan debt impacts some teams of individuals extra severely than others, with notable variations by race and gender. That can also be true of age teams.

When you have a look at student loan debt by age, the discrepancies amongst age cohorts are affected by each the schooling charges in impact when the members of every age group attended school and by whether or not the older cohorts took on further or new debt by co-signing or borrowing on behalf of a member of the family. Additionally, rates of interest can lead to loan balances rising over time, whilst individuals start paying them off. Because student loans aren’t self-amortized, debtors would not have the luxurious of a set compensation schedule to make sure that the debt is repaid by an agreed-upon time period. What’s extra, because the youngest group’s loans are the most recent, just for themselves, and fewer more likely to embrace graduate college debt, their debt burdens are smaller.

What makes student loan debt completely different from many other forms of borrowing is that it could possibly have a multigenerational impression. In an e mail correspondence with Investopedia, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Human Resources Peter Cappelli mentioned: “Parents are scrimping to send their kids to college and help them pay off student loans, so it affects their retirement. Usually we think of intergenerational problems as being difficulties facing the current generation affecting the next one, their kid. This is the reverse: The kid’s difficulties are affecting their parents.”

Key Takeaways

  • 50-to-61-year-old debtors had the very best common student loan debt in 2021, at $43,214.16; the 24-and-younger age group owed the least, at $14,657.92 on common.
  • 35-to-49-year-old debtors owed essentially the most on common by way of complete debt, at $613 billion in Q2 ’21, whereas the 62-and-older group, at $92.7 billion, owed the least throughout this identical interval.
  • California had the very best student loan debt balances in complete and throughout all age teams. Wyoming had the bottom quantity in complete and throughout all classes apart from the “62-and-older” vary.
  • Comprising 14.9 million individuals, 25-to-34 yr olds symbolize the most important group of debtors in 2021.
  • At 19%, 35-to-54-year-old debtors had been the probably to be in default in 2018.

Understanding Student Loan Debt

Student debt represents how a lot a person owes after securing financing for the next training from the federal authorities, a personal lender, or each. This cash can be utilized to cowl tuition, textbooks and different college provides, primary residing bills, and different prices. As of Jan. 2021, at $1.7 trillion, Americans collectively owed extra in student loan debt than the gross home product (GDP) of practically each nation on Earth. 

Most students will doubtless need to take out a student loan, as potential scholarships and/or parental monetary help is probably not sufficient to cowl all bills. What’s extra, the quantities borrowed will doubtless proceed to rise sooner or later, on condition that the price of training has been steadily rising.

More than 44 million Americans carry student loan debt. Those who’re unable to afford the debt repayments will expertise their loans changing into delinquent. This can lead to their debt going into default after a adequate period of time passes with out fee. Having loans that lapse into both of those states can have a major adverse impression on a borrower’s credit rating and credit report. Having to maintain up with well timed loan repayments may also make it more durable to avoid wasting for emergencies and for main purchases, resembling a home or a automobile.

Given that the price of the next training has continued to rise—and contemplating that debt fluctuates over time relying on funds and rates of interest—it is sensible that debtors would owe completely different quantities relying on their age. Before we will higher perceive the connection between age and debt balances, we should first decide which age teams to make use of, as sources will not be constant within the age ranges they use to prepare their information. Below are the most typical age teams, which is able to function the “baseline” for this text:

  • 24 and Younger: Generation Z (9–24)
  • 25 to 34: Majority of the millennial technology
  • 35 to 49: Millennials (35–40); Generation X (41–49)
  • 50 to 61: Generation X (50–56); child boomers (57–61)
  • 62 and Older: Baby boomers (62–75); silent technology (76–93)

Should a supply on this article use completely different age ranges than those listed above, their information can be offered as reported. Additionally, as many of those research will not be up to date on an annual foundation, information could also be sourced from completely different years. Below are the findings from our analysis on student loan debt by age.

Size of Student Loan Debt by Age

The first issue to contemplate is the precise dimension of the debt burdens every group is dealing with. As it is functionally not possible to visually symbolize the loan quantities of every particular person U.S. citizen, there are two methods we will analyze this information. Comparing the common student loan debt by age group gives a tough estimation of which generations have the very best debt burdens on a person stage. Meanwhile, the entire quantity owed by every group provides us a greater understanding of which generations have taken on essentially the most student loan debt.

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Based on information from the workplace of Federal Student Aid, at $43,214.16, 50-to-61-year-old debtors had the very best common student loan debt in 2021 Q2. The 35-to-49-year-old cohort was shut behind at $42,583.92 on common. The 24-and-younger group owed the least student loan debt, at $14,657.92 on common. This is unsurprising, given that almost all of debtors who fall inside this age vary have not had a lot time for curiosity to build up—or to finish graduate college.

When taking a look at complete student loan debt by age, at $613 billion in Q2’21, 35-to-49-year-old debtors owed the most important quantity on common. The second-highest quantity belonged to the 25-to-34 demographic, which owed $500.6 billion in complete as of this identical interval. At $92.7 billion, the smallest quantity of complete student loan debt belongs to the 62-and-older group, although this will change sooner or later.

According to Federal Student Aid, 24-and-younger debtors are the one age group to owe much less in student loan debt in 2021 than they did in 2017. This is probably a results of school enrollments having declined in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. However, whereas there was an almost 8 billion lower from 20’Q2 to twenty’Q3—and a lower than 3 billion restoration in 20’This fall—these quantities aren’t atypical when in comparison with the identical quarters within the earlier yr.

Each of the opposite teams have skilled their complete debt burdens rising at completely different charges. For instance, the entire student loan debt owed by 62-and-older debtors has elevated by $40.8 billion since 2017. This may very well be the results of the oldest debtors having both returned to highschool to enhance their profession prospects or taken out loans to help their youngsters/grandchildren’s training(s). Meanwhile, although they owe way more per borrower, 25-to-34 yr olds solely skilled a $23.2 billion improve. Both of those numbers are far decrease than the $128.3 billion improve in complete borrowing skilled by 35-to-49-year-olds over the past three years. According to Credit Sesame, this improve is a results of Generation X dad and mom paying for their very own student loan debt whereas additionally taking up their youngsters’s debt burdens. This is the primary incidence of two units of training debt in a single technology, the positioning reviews.

“The oldest borrowers among [the 35-to-49] group are likely taking out Parent PLUS loans, which generally have terrible terms relative to traditional federal student loans. The youngest are likely taking out Graduate PLUS loans, which is where you have seen the most growth over the past several decades,” mentioned Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies within the Economics Department at Temple University Douglas Webber, as a part of an e mail correspondence with Investopedia. “There are also many people in this age group attending undergraduate programs, but they are more likely to be attending higher cost for-profit programs that rely heavily on federal student debt.”

Student Loan Debt by Age & State

Additionally, as a result of training prices and different bills various by state, the quantity of student loan debt by age differs between every U.S. state. This will be seen each in what number of debtors reside in a person state, in addition to within the complete quantity owed by every age group.

When taking a look at Federal Student Aid’s state-by-state breakdown of student loan debt as of 2021, California is notable for having the very best values in all measured classes:

  • Total Borrowers: 3,860.1 million
  • 24 or Younger (Total): $8.67 billion
  • 25 to 34 (Total): $49.99 billion
  • 35 to 49 (Total): $52.44 billion
  • 50 to 61 (Total): $23.10 billion
  • 62 and Older (Total): $8.45 billion

Conversely, Wyoming has the bottom values in practically each measured class:

  • Total Borrowers: 52.9 million
  • 24 or Younger (Total): $0.09 billion
  • 25 to 34 (Total): $0.47 billion
  • 35 to 49 (Total): $0.72 billion
  • 50 to 61 (Total): $0.27 billion

The state with the bottom complete quantity owed by 62-and-older debtors is North Dakota, although Wyoming has simply $0.01 billion extra in complete than the previous state.

How Age Shapes Student Loan Debt

The variations among the many age teams tells a narrative of how Americans expertise student loan debt over a lifetime—first their very own debt after which, probably, debt for kids and typically grandchildren or different members of the family. The above statistics point out that 50-to-61-year-old debtors are essentially the most impacted by excessive student loan debt, adopted intently by 35-to-49 yr olds.

However, it is vital to needless to say correlation would not essentially equal causation, and the Fed’s information would not inform the total story. In addition to age in and of itself, the next three elements are additionally vital for understanding student loan debt balances by age:

  • Number of Borrowers: The variety of people inside an age vary will naturally have an effect on the quantity of complete student loan debt owed by mentioned group. This info can be used to calculate a cohort’s student loan debt per capita.
  • Generational Wealth: Borrowers with better entry to generational wealth may have extra sources to pay down student loan debt quicker, with out sacrificing their skill to avoid wasting for different vital purchases.
  • Delinquency and Default: Those who’re unable to repay their debt will expertise their balances rising over time. The impression on their credit will restrict their skill to help themselves financially.
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Which Age Group Has the Most Borrowers?

The variety of debtors per group is without doubt one of the most vital contextual piece of knowledge to have. After all, if one age vary has the next debt burden than one other but additionally has extra debtors, then it is secure to imagine that the upper quantity is not less than partially the results of there being extra individuals taking out related quantities of debt.

According to Federal Student Aid, the most important group of debtors was 25-to-34 yr olds, at 14.9 million as of 2021. Close behind them had been 35-to-49 yr olds, a bunch comprised of roughly 14.3 million debtors throughout that very same yr. The third-largest was noticeably decrease, with 7.5 million 24-and-younger debtors. The smallest quantity was the 62-and-older group at 2.4 million. Notably, the 25-to-34 years outdated class was the one one to be decrease than the quantity reported in 2017, with a distinction of 0.4 million debtors.

Which Age Group Owes the Most Per Person?

Although the common student loan debt by age group is a helpful option to gauge how a lot every particular person member of a specific technology would possibly owe, it is neither the one one neither is it essentially essentially the most correct. By dividing the entire quantity of student loan debt per technology by the related variety of debtors, we will calculate student loan debt per capita by age. Although this functionally assumes that every one debtors have the identical quantity of debt, which clearly is not true, it permits us to get an analogous quantity to the common whereas nonetheless seeing the way it’s modified over time.


As of 2021, the 50-to-61 age group had the very best common student loan debt per individual, at $43.44 thousand. The 35-to-49 age group was shut behind with a median of $42.87 thousand per capita. At $15.16 thousand, debtors who had been 24 years outdated and youthful had the smallest student loan debt on common. The 50-to-61 age group has additionally skilled the most important improve of their common student loan debt since 2017. Conversely, the 24-and-younger vary was the one one to expertise a lower within the common student loan debt per capita throughout that very same interval.

Based on this information, we will infer that the bigger variety of debtors might clarify why the 35-to-49 years outdated group’s burden is so excessive. After all, the extra debtors which are, the extra debt there’s going to be in complete. However, by that logic the 25-to-34 group must have the very best debt stability. Additionally, this does not clarify the common debt balances by age group. If the variety of debtors had been all that mattered, then the 25-to-34 yr outdated debtors would not owe much less on common than the 50-to-61 and 62-and-older teams. Although the quantity of debtors in a given age vary doubtless impacts the quantity of debt owed, it is only one issue amongst a number of.

Which Age Group Has More Generational Wealth?

Generational wealth is a trickier issue to quantify, as it’s itself comprised of a number of completely different components. The important thought is that, if a household has had extra wealth throughout generations, then their descendants may have better monetary sources exterior of what they earn via their careers. The reverse can also be true, as these with much less entry to generational wealth might need to spend extra of their earned earnings to help their still-living members of the family. The a lot heavier student debt burden confronted by individuals of coloration stems, largely, from America’s large generational wealth hole by race.

Generational wealth can take the type of items (whether or not these be sums of cash or invaluable gadgets) and paying for academic and/or medical bills. Then there’s inheritance, which is when an individual can obtain a bulk of their household’s generational wealth en masse after a relative’s passing, in the event that they had been included within the deceased’s will.


According to VoxEU, 19% of U.S. households surveyed between 2010–2014 reported receiving an intergenerational wealth switch sooner or later, the vast majority of which had been within the type of inheritances. Individuals over 65 years outdated obtained the most important share of generational wealth switch throughout this time-frame and people beneath 35 obtained the smallest share—38.4% and 4.6%, respectively. This is sensible, because the youthful we’re, the much less doubtless our dad and mom are to die, and vice versa. And, since residing longer affords individuals extra time to build up wealth, those that lose their members of the family at an older age might obtain a extra substantial inheritance.

Having better entry to generational wealth could also be one motive the oldest age group has the bottom complete student loan debt. Others are that they doubtless have paid off their very own student debt and far or all borrowed for his or her youngsters. In addition, school prices once they had been students had been a lot decrease than they’re now.

“This is mostly just a mechanical function of when these borrowers went to school. Older borrowers went to school at a time when tuition was a lot lower,” Webber added. “The youngest borrowers haven’t fully completed their education yet, most importantly graduate school. If nothing changes in terms of student loan policy, Gen Z student debt will surpass the older generations once they have completed their education.”

Despite accounting for the second-largest share of complete wealth transferred, the 35-to-49 group nonetheless has the very best student loan burden. This, in fact, is an age group more likely to be paying maybe each the final of their very own debt and loans taken out for his or her youngsters. What’s extra, the variety of households receiving inheritances—and the quantity every beneficiary receives—is probably not sufficient to make a lot of a dent in a median debt load of greater than $42.5 thousand {dollars} per individual.

Which Age Group Is More Likely to Miss Payments?

The critical penalties of failing to make on-time funds make excessive student loan burdens a significant stressor. However, having massive quantities of training debt would not essentially correlate with problem repaying it (consider a doctor in a thriving observe repaying medical college loans). To decide which age teams are genuinely fighting their training debt, we should think about default charges and delinquency quantities by age.


In phrases of default charges, a Statista survey discovered that 35-to-54-year-old debtors had been the probably to be in default in 2018, at 19%. This group was adopted by 18-to-34 yr olds and and 55+ debtors at 15% and 5%, respectively. Additionally, 35-to-54-year-old debtors had been roughly half as more likely to have earlier defaulted on their loans than the opposite two teams. At 53%, this group was additionally the least doubtless by no means to enter default, with 18-to-34 yr olds being 5 proportion factors larger. At 80%, 55+ debtors had been the probably by no means to have defaulted on their loans.


According to a 2019 Experian report, the entire quantity of delinquent student debt owed by every age vary was lowest for the loans that had been essentially the most overdue. Borrowers age 35-to-49 had the very best quantity throughout all classes, with their $15.5 billion owed for the 31–90 days delinquent class being the very best total. Close behind this group was the 25-to-34 years outdated age vary, owing $12 billion for a similar time interval. The third-lowest group, nonetheless, owed barely over half as a lot as its predecessor inside this time-frame. The lowest total quantity, at $0.04 billion, was owed by 24-and-younger debtors with debt funds which are 361+ days delinquent.

Based on these two research, the teams that owed the most important complete delinquent debt and had been the probably to enter default had been 35-to-49 yr olds and 35-to-54 yr olds, respectively. Although these are completely different age ranges, given that there’s a chronological overlap between them, this information means that debtors between 35-to-49 years of age battle essentially the most with repaying their student loans, even when the bigger variety of debtors could also be inflating the entire quantity considerably.

How Much Student Loan Debt Does Each Age Group Have on Average?

Based on information from the workplace of Federal Student Aid, that is the common quantity every age group owed in student loan debt in 2021:

  • 24 and Younger: $14,657.92
  • 25 to 34: $33,565.55
  • 35 to 49: $42,583.92
  • 50 to 61: $43,214.16
  • 62 and Older: $38,769.02

What Age Do People Pay Off Their Student Loan Debt on Average?

A 2020 New York Life survey discovered the common participant took 18.5 years to repay their student loan debt, from age 26 to roughly 45.

Are Student Loans Forgiven at a Certain Age?

In the U.S., federal student loans will not be robotically forgiven at any age. Some international locations, resembling England, write off student loans that had been made a number of years in the past after the borrower turns 65 years outdated.

The Bottom Line

With so many elements in play, it is tough to nail down particular causes for the discrepancies in student loan debt by age—or whether or not the patterns we see at present will proceed into the long run. Current Federal Student Aid information reveals that middle-aged debtors are struggling essentially the most with excessive student loan debt, and they’re the probably to undergo from delinquency and default in consequence.

What we do not know is whether or not millennial and Gen X debtors will receives a commission up and expertise decrease debt burdens over time, as has occurred with at present’s older age cohort. Or will they carry their student debt issues into later years, leading to a brand new debt surge in older age teams? One concern: Social Security advantages will be garnished to pay federal student debt.

Total student loan debt balances have been steadily rising throughout practically all age ranges over the past 4 years, which may very well be a results of the rising price of training. Once extra members of Gen Z graduate and have time to build up curiosity, we should always acquire a greater understanding of the long-term impression of age on student loan debt.