The nation’s student loan debt crisis, mapped
America’s past decade of economic growth is a lagely a narrative farce, created by those choosing to focus on the good parts of the economy — namely, the stock market and job numbers — while sweeping one sign of increasing inequality after another under the rug. But a new map released by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth offers some grim insight into the ways that we’re totally, totally screwed.
The map layers three figures — average student loan balance, median income, and rate of student loan delinquency (i.e., inability to pay) — for any given zip code in the United States. In doing so, it reveals something that should be intuitive but isn’t: If you don’t have a high-paying job, you’re probably struggling to pay off your student loans. Writes the WCEG, “A generation ago, student debt was a relative rarity, but for today's students and recent graduates, it's a central fact of economic life.”
The first of the above images shows that around the San Francisco Bay Area, where median incomes are relatively high, student loan debt is often “astronomical” (in that graphic, the higher the average loan cost, the darker) but people at least manage to pay them off. In the second, which shows low-income areas in West Virginia and Kentucky, you can see that rates of student loan delinquency (in this one, the higher the rate, the more a county is shaded) are off the charts. In other words, young people are up to their eyeballs in debt, and the only way to get out of that debt is to make a shit-ton of money.