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The long-term toll of college costs

The Week Staff

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

Women managers face harassment
A survey of more than 26,000 women found that workplace sexual harassment got worse the further they advanced in their career, said Arianne Cohen at Fast Company. "Female supervisors experience 30 to 100 percent more harassment" than rank-and-file female employees, according to a study involving women in Japan, Sweden, and the U.S. "Low-level leaders receive the brunt of it." They face harassment both from "subordinates and from higher-level management," so they have it "coming at them from all sides." When reporting the misbehavior, "supervisors face more professional and social retaliation," say researchers at the Swedish Institute for Social Research, who surmise male subordinates demean women managers because of jealousy.

The long-term toll of college costs
"The difference in net worth between college and noncollege graduates has plunged," said Benjamin Reeves at Worth. New research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that while college graduates still earn twice as much as nongraduates, "wealth accumulation is a different story." White college grads born in the 1930s had 247 percent more in assets than nongraduates of the same age. For those born in the 1980s, the "wealth premium" had dropped to 42 percent. It's even worse for black grads: Their wealth premium has dropped from 177 percent for those born in the 1960s to zero for the cohort born in the '70s. The causes include housing prices and consumer debt. But the "biggest culprit" is the surging cost of higher education itself: College costs have risen by a factor of 14 since 1978.

Big risks in big mortgages
Jumbo mortgages are back on the rise, even as decade-old failing mortgages still "haunt the housing market," said Keith Jurow at MarketWatch. Confidence in the housing market has triggered a resurgence in jumbos — home loans that exceed the guarantee limits set by Fannie Mae ($510,400, or $765,600 in a few high-cost areas). We've seen this play out before. "During the four wildest bubble years, about $3.1 trillion of jumbo mortgages was originated." Hundreds of thousands of these loans have defaulted more than once — in many cases, "borrowers have not paid for years." But banks have been reluctant to foreclose for fear of hurting the housing market. These bad loans are a "ticking time bomb" that could wreak havoc on housing prices, even as banks bet on the new crop of jumbos.

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