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How student debt is hurting our economy
Nearly 42 percent of 25-year-olds have student debt. That's bad news for the housing and auto industries
Protesters take part in an "Occupy Student Debt" march in New York in 2011.
Protesters take part in an "Occupy Student Debt" march in New York in 2011. John Marshall Mantel/ZUMA Press/Corbis
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tudent debt is ballooning, and dragging our economy down in the process, according to a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

In 2002, 25 percent of 25-year-olds had student debt. In 2012, that number jumped to 42 percent, with the average amount of debt ringing in at $20,326. The result? Young people are much less likely to buy a home or car.

For a long time, people with student debt were actually more likely to take out a home mortgage or auto loan than those who didn't because, as college graduates, they made more money. That all changed after the start of the Great Recession.

Now it's the opposite: Young people with student debt are taking out fewer house and car loans than those without. The Washington Post's Brad Plumer breaks down why this might be happening:

One possibility is that younger Americans burdened by heavy student loans are simply unwilling to take on further debt. Perhaps they're worried about their future job and income prospects, especially in this dismal economy. (Remember, students who are unlucky enough to graduate during the recession typically have lower lifetime earnings.)

Another (related) possibility is that lenders are becoming stingier. There's decent evidence for this: The study finds that younger Americans with student debt have seen their credit risk scores plummet relative to those without. Banks and other lenders seem to be scared away from people with student loans — especially since delinquency rates are rising. [Washington Post]

As Bloomberg's Kathleen Howley points out, many students were forced into student debt because, after the housing crash, their parents could no longer take out big home equity loans to pay for college. This vicious cycle has resulted in the home ownership rate dipping to 65.4 percent, its lowest level since 1997.

In his budget, President Obama proposed tying student loans to the rate on a 10-year Treasury bond, which, according to Businessweek, would bring subsidized, unsubsidized, and grad school loan rates down significantly (provided the economy doesn't pick up). He also wants to expand the program that caps loan payments at 10 percent of a person's income. 

Of course, that all depends on the White House and Congress actually agreeing on something. For now, it looks like 20-somethings aren't likely to get out of debt anytime soon. 

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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