Journal Article

Student debt incidence: recent data and conceptual issues

Abstract: In recent years, the rising level of student debt has led to calls for increased government assistance in the form of partial or full student debt cancellation. In this Commentary, we use the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to study the incidence of student debt and cancellation benefits along quantiles of household income, net worth, and our estimate of lifetime wealth. We show that student debt is highly concentrated among households with low net worth, but much more evenly distributed across income and lifetime wealth. We then highlight several challenges in using such statistics to draw conclusions about whether cancellation will ultimately increase or decrease inequality in lifetime wealth, and we outline open questions for future research. Replication materials for this Commentary may be found at

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Part of Series: Economic Commentary

Publication Date: 2022-12-19

Volume: 2022

Issue: 16