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The Geography of Student Debt

John Sandman

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —Where is student loan debt coming from? Which parts of the country have the most? Which parts owe the least?

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The New York Fed's new report, "Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for 2013 Q1," draws on the Fed's Consumer Credit Panel plus Equifax credit data to form its conclusions. Information is charted on a set of maps that displays its student loan data by region and by state, featuring the extent and location of student debt.

The report, released on May 14, examines student loan borrowers as a share of the U.S. population. The number of people with active student loan debt as a share of the population with a credit record varies substantially throughout the country when identified by region. For example, in Hawaii, under 12% of people with a credit report have student debt, while in the District of Columbia over 25% owe money on student loans.

The report also looks at loan balances per student loan borrower, which the Fed found to be significant in virtually all states. At the state level, debt per borrower runs from just under $21,000 in Wyoming to over $28,000 in Maryland. Washington, D.C. is again the high water mark and in a state all its own: the average borrower in the nation's capital is on the hook for over $40,000. "In general," the report concluded, "we find student loan debt levels are highest in California and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts."

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Delinquency rates also rise and fall according to region. Generally higher rates have turned up in the south and southwest than in the north. South Dakota boasts the lowest delinquency rate—a little over 6.5%, and West Virginia leads the nation with almost 18%.

The authors of the report-- Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Wilbert van der Klaauw and Joelle Scally – who have expressed their own views and not necessarily those of the New York Fed, are mindful of the importance of student loan debt—to the borrowers, the lenders, and the economy in general. "Student loan indebtedness and delinquency continue to generate intense interest," they write, "and we look forward to sharing data and perspectives that help define the scope of this important issue."

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