A disproportionate number of US student loan borrowers live in minority neighborhoods, according to a new study, highlighting how “America’s student debt crisis is a civil rights crisis.”
The new report from the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) analyzed the behavior of student loan borrowers in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC to determine how they manage their debt.
Researchers have found that even though they only live a few blocks from each other, borrowers of color struggle much more with their student debt. Added to existing inequalities, the pressure from student loans “reinforces social stratification and segregation between neighborhoods,” the report says.
The data “underscores how increasingly student debt is a racial and economic justice issue,” SBPC said in an email to Yahoo Finance.
Over-indebtedness is more common in non-white neighborhoods
SBPC research noted that borrower distress is “highly concentrated” in neighborhoods populated primarily by Blacks and Latinx.
The researchers found that in Washington, six of the eight neighborhoods with the fastest growing student debt are populated mostly by minorities.
This matches existing data: While median debt balances in some of the whitest neighborhoods (like Adams Morgan and Foggy Bottom) in Washington DC have declined by 30% over the past decade, debt balances in Washington DC have declined by 30% over the past decade. several predominantly black neighborhoods such as Brookland and Deanwood grew by as much as 217%.
In New York City, the median amount of student loans held by borrowers living on Staten Island – whom the authors consider a white majority – is half that of those living in the Bronx, considered to be a majority minority.
In addition, given the weight of student debt, residents of neighborhoods 90% of minority neighborhoods were five times more likely to fall behind on their loans than those in the whitest neighborhoods.
In San Francisco, the student loan default rate in neighborhoods with the largest minority populations is more than 7.5 times that of majority white areas. And the three neighborhoods where student loans have experienced delinquency rates below 5% are at least 75% white, the authors noted.
The same problem arises in DC: At Chevy Chase and DuPont Circle, the default rates on student loans are around 1-2%. In Congress Heights (94% non-white), the delinquency rate is 35%.
The results reveal an irony present within higher education, the authors concluded.
“Where higher education was once the promised gateway to the middle class, the reality is much darker,” the authors said. “The disparities in the student loan market rival the results of the most predatory redlining tactics perpetrated by unscrupulous lenders. This cost is borne only by borrowers of color, especially black and Latin borrowers, all of whom are incurred simply because they have chosen to pursue the American dream.
Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. If you attended a for-profit school or worked at a school and would like to share your story, you can reach her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.