While Americans in general are suffering from the burden of massive student loan debt, a report by Bloomberg published today shows that there is a definitive racial divide in the amount of debt that borrowers are taking out. The report found that, on average, African Americans take on about 31 percent more debt than the average Caucasian students.
So what causes this disparity?
One reason is that African American students are taking on a lot of debt to earn degrees that often don’t pay off. For-profit colleges—many with questionable motives—often focus on recruiting black students because of their eligibility for federal grants and loans. Students often graduate from these schools with large amounts of debt and degrees that don’t lead to well-paying jobs.
Another reason is that while lawmakers have tried to come up with ways to help students pay for their postsecondary education, federal grant programs haven't kept pace with the ever rising cost of tuition. In fact, between 1989 to 2013, average student debt among black families has increased more than 10-fold.
When students accumulate high debt and are unable to lockdown well-paying jobs, their net worth is lower. This helps explain why—despite narrowing the gap in education and employment between blacks and whites—there has been little progress in decreasing the overall wealth gap. In addition, since student debt can’t be written off and takes years (or even decades) to pay off, it often affects their net worth for a considerable amount of time.
Another study found that black borrowers are three times more likely to default their student loans, but also pointed out that black grads are more likely than whites to attend grad school within four years of earning their undergraduate degrees, which means they are borrowing more.