Student Loan Debt by Generation

Last Updated: July 10, 2021 by Melanie Hanson

Report Highlights. The average student loan debt increased for all generations – It increased on average by 18%.

  • Generation X carries the highest average balance at $45,095 per borrower.
  • 14.8 Million millennials have student loan debt, more than any other generation.
  • Millennials carry an average balance of $38,877 per borrower.
  • Generation Z’s average debt increased by 39%, more than any other generation.
  • Baby Boomers held the second-largest amount of average debt at $40,512.

Student debt by age generation on EducationData

National Student Loan Debt

With federal student debt totaled at $1.57 trillion, the majority of federal student debt is concentrated with Generation X. The average Baby Boomer with student loans tends to owe more than the average Millennial. However, on the national scale, Millennials have a larger overall debt than Baby Boomers.

  • Generation Z held 7.37% of the total $1.57 trillion student loan debt.
  • Millennials held 31.94% of the total debt.
  • Generation X held most of the debt at 38.40%.
  • Baby Boomers owned 16.73% of the federal student debt.
  • The Silent Generation accounted for 5.54% of the debt.
  • 0.02% of the debt remained unaccounted for between the age groups.
  • $0.3 billion dollars remain un-accounted, belonging to none of the age groups.

Total debt by age generation on EducationData

Number of Borrowers per Generation

Millennials make up the largest number of federal loan borrowers. They have consistently been the largest age group since 2017 even as the number of Millennial borrowers steadily decreases per year. Interestingly, the number of borrowers from the older generations has steadily risen since 2017.

  • Generation Z have 1.95 million borrowers who owe $10,000 to $20,000 in debt.
  • Millennials have 3.49 million borrowers who owe $20,000 to $40,000 in debt.
  • Generation X have 1.66 million borrowers who owe $40,000 to $60,000 in debt.
  • Baby Boomers have 0.63 million borrowers who owe $40,000 to $60,000 in debt.
  • The Silent Generation have 0.38 million borrowers who owe $20,000 to $40,000 in debt.
  • 0.1 million borrowers remain unaccounted for, their age group not reported.

Borrowers debt by age generation on EducationData

Debt by Age & State

Throughout all the age groups, California consistently held the highest amount of debt out of all the other states. Wyoming had the smallest population of borrowers throughout all the generations. This data set includes Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories in the other category.

  • Puerto Rico accounts for $8.7 billion of the national debt.
  • Puerto Rico accounts for 321,900 of the total borrower population.
  • U.S. territories account for $4.2 billion of the national debt.
  • U.S. territories account for 92,500 of the total borrower population.

Generation Z

Year after year, Generation Z sees the largest increases in their student loan debt, personal loans, and mortgage balances. Generation Z is also on track to becoming the most educated generation. More of their generation attends college after high school compared to previous generations – which may also increase the size of their overall student loans.

  • 57% of Generation Z go into college at age 18 to 21 compared to 52% of Millennials at that age and 43% of Generation X.
  • Studies find that as more of Generation Z goes to college, they are also less likely to be a part of the workforce – delaying repayment of loans such as student debt.
  • 651,500 borrowers are from Texas – making it the state with the largest number of borrowers from Generation Z.
Generation Z State Demographics
State Student Loan Debt (in Billions) Borrowers
Alabama $1.74 117,200
Alaska $0.11 9,700
Arizona $1.68 128,100
Arkansas $0.97 72,000
California $8.96 646,900
Colorado $1.67 123,100
Connecticut $1.95 118,300
Delaware $0.39 25,200
District of Columbia $0.27 14,300
Florida $5.26 363,500
Georgia $4.26 288,600
Hawaii $0.31 22,900
Idaho $0.44 37,000
Illinois $5.36 340,000
Indiana $2.41 172,300
Iowa $1.37 96,000
Kansas $1.06 76,900
Kentucky $1.53 106,900
Louisiana $1.82 131,100
Maine $0.60 39,100
Maryland $2.41 149,600
Massachusetts $3.73 228,800
Michigan $4.11 262,700
Minnesota $2.56 174,500
Mississippi $1.05 77,000
Missouri $2.16 144,900
Montana $0.28 21,900
Nebraska $0.77 55,200
Nevada $0.57 47,100
New Hampshire $0.72 45,300
New Jersey $4.70 289,200
New Mexico $0.33 29,200
New York $8.50 520,900
North Carolina $3.85 248,100
North Dakota $0.30 21,600
Ohio $5.04 333,800
Oklahoma $0.98 76,700
Oregon $0.99 73,400
Pennsylvania $6.83 418,500
Puerto Rico $0.56 57,900
Rhode Island $0.51 32,000
South Carolina $2.13 137,400
South Dakota $0.41 28,500
Tennessee $2.16 148,100
Texas $8.65 651,500
Utah $0.56 53,700
Vermont $0.27 17,700
Virginia $3.33 211,500
Washington $1.61 119,800
West Virginia $0.61 42,800
Wisconsin $2.37 161,300
Wyoming $0.10 8,800
Other $0.19 13,900
Not Reported $0.03 7,900

Millennials

Millennials carry the 3rd highest student loan debt behind Baby Boomers and Generation X. As a result of their outstanding student loan debt, Millennial home ownership has fallen since the 2000’s and early 2010’s. Millennials are also taking longer to finish their degrees, thereby increasing their debt the longer they are in school.

  • 1/3rd of all Millennials carry a student loan.
  • 40% of those Millennials who start college do not finish their degree within six years.
  • Baby Boomers on average bought their first home at age 25, Millennials by comparison are projected to buy their first home at age 35.
  • From 2005 to 2014, homeownership among Millennials dropped by 9 percentage points.
  • In a survey of 1,648 Millennials by the AARP, 25% of Millennials stated that student loan debt prevented them from moving out of their current home.
  • 45 million borrowers are from California – making it the state with the largest number of borrowers from this generation.
Millennial State Demographics
State Student Loan Debt (in Billions) Borrowers
Alabama $7.07 202,600
Alaska $0.74 24,800
Arizona $9.41 294,900
Arkansas $4.03 128,900
California $50.09 1,452,400
Colorado $9.51 284,200
Connecticut $5.68 164,300
Delaware $1.41 40,800
District of Columbia $2.95 50,100
Florida $32.01 891,400
Georgia $19.85 530,600
Hawaii $1.31 41,000
Idaho $2.09 73,700
Illinois $21.04 561,400
Indiana $9.35 307,200
Iowa $4.42 148,800
Kansas $3.93 129,200
Kentucky $6.66 205,800
Louisiana $7.22 212,700
Maine $2.10 65,300
Maryland $10.96 277,000
Massachusetts $11.82 332,700
Michigan $17.43 488,600
Minnesota $9.50 292,400
Mississippi $4.67 140,600
Missouri $9.42 283,200
Montana $1.29 43,100
Nebraska $2.76 86,700
Nevada $3.50 116,600
New Hampshire $2.15 67,700
New Jersey $14.72 415,700
New Mexico $2.14 74,900
New York $33.82 872,400
North Carolina $15.65 431,800
North Dakota $0.91 32,400
Ohio $20.19 605,000
Oklahoma $4.43 155,800
Oregon $6.32 188,500
Pennsylvania $23.01 644,700
Puerto Rico $3.41 119,400
Rhode Island $1.69 52,100
South Carolina $8.98 240,800
South Dakota $1.25 40,800
Tennessee $10.33 301,400
Texas $37.26 1,232,600
Utah $3.44 118,500
Vermont $0.92 26,700
Virginia $13.97 370,500
Washington $8.87 275,500
West Virginia $2.35 73,700
Wisconsin $8.36 265,900
Wyoming $0.47 17,900
Other $1.40 35,600
Not Reported $2.22 299,200

Generation X

Statistics indicate Generation X have the highest student loan debts on average and on the national scale compared to the other generations. Generation X demonstrated their ability to rebound from financial loss after the Great Recession when they recovered the most money out of all the other generations. Despite their ability to bounce back, Generation X remains pessimistic about retirement because of debts like student loans.

  • 44% of Generation X say they are not confident about retirement compared to 35% of Millennials and 40% of Baby Boomers.
  • Generation X may delay and push back retirement on account of student loans.
  • In a survey of 1,530 Generation X by the AARP, 38% of those surveyed stated student loans prevented them from saving for retirement.
  • At 1.06 million, California is the state with the most number of Generation X borrowers.
Generation X State Demographics
State Student Loan Debt (in Billions) Borrowers
Alabama $9.31 189,000
Alaska $0.93 21,300
Arizona $12.27 273,500
Arkansas $5.22 118,000
California $50.87 1,061,700
Colorado $10.81 227,400
Connecticut $4.77 110,500
Delaware $1.58 33,000
District of Columbia $2.28 32,800
Florida $38.06 797,200
Georgia $27.09 493,800
Hawaii $1.62 33,500
Idaho $3.07 70,400
Illinois $20.13 414,800
Indiana $11.25 266,200
Iowa $4.74 119,200
Kansas $4.69 109,600
Kentucky $7.60 185,300
Louisiana $8.50 183,500
Maine $2.02 48,200
Maryland $12.75 230,400
Massachusetts $8.25 185,800
Michigan $18.12 397,300
Minnesota $9.39 208,300
Mississippi $6.75 135,500
Missouri $11.16 245,700
Montana $1.62 36,700
Nebraska $2.72 64,200
Nevada $4.54 106,100
New Hampshire $1.90 42,700
New Jersey $11.42 255,500
New Mexico $3.27 76,600
New York $28.12 576,700
North Carolina $17.80 365,800
North Dakota $0.88 21,400
Ohio $22.67 520,100
Oklahoma $6.18 154,300
Oregon $8.40 178,600
Pennsylvania $19.57 423,300
Puerto Rico $3.44 100,200
Rhode Island $1.27 32,000
South Carolina $10.31 206,300
South Dakota $1.24 28,600
Tennessee $11.79 251,500
Texas $44.97 1,043,400
Utah $4.29 94,900
Vermont $0.92 18,000
Virginia $15.10 297,800
Washington $10.80 242,200
West Virginia $2.81 70,800
Wisconsin $8.01 191,500
Wyoming $0.70 17,400
Other $1.77 28,300
Not Reported $61.98 2,590,300

Baby Boomers

In addition to their own student loans, Baby Boomers are likely to assume debt on behalf of their children’s higher education. Those Baby Boomers who are retired and receiving Social Security benefits may find their benefits garnished if they default on federal student loans like the Parent PLUS loans.

  • An AARP survey found that 77% of Baby Boomers who took out loans for someone else, did it on behalf of their children’s education.
  • From 2015 to 2016, 10% of undergraduate students had parents who paid for their education through Parent PLUS Loans.
  • From 2017 to 2018, the Parent PLUS loans program held nearly 800,000 Baby Boomer participants.
  • At 504,400 borrowers, California had the most number of in debt Baby Boomers.
Baby Boomers State Demographics
State Student Loan Debt (in Billions) Borrowers
Alabama $3.55 80,100
Alaska $0.36 8,200
Arizona $5.05 119,800
Arkansas $1.82 45,400
California $22.28 504,400
Colorado $4.27 91,100
Connecticut $3.18 65,300
Delaware $0.86 16,900
District of Columbia $0.64 12,900
Florida $15.75 347,300
Georgia $11.48 217,100
Hawaii $0.81 16,600
Idaho $1.02 24,500
Illinois $10.24 213,100
Indiana $4.82 115,100
Iowa $1.91 50,400
Kansas $1.98 47,500
Kentucky $2.66 70,400
Louisiana $3.08 75,900
Maine $0.92 22,100
Maryland $6.57 119,400
Massachusetts $4.31 92,600
Michigan $8.02 187,600
Minnesota $3.49 81,300
Mississippi $2.48 56,600
Missouri $4.71 109,600
Montana $0.64 15,800
Nebraska $1.15 28,900
Nevada $1.91 46,900
New Hampshire $1.14 23,300
New Jersey $7.29 144,800
New Mexico $1.30 31,200
New York $14.81 313,100
North Carolina $7.58 166,700
North Dakota $0.27 7,100
Ohio $10.04 233,800
Oklahoma $2.47 63,800
Oregon $2.95 68,300
Pennsylvania $10.18 221,900
Puerto Rico $1.02 33,700
Rhode Island $0.71 16,400
South Carolina $4.27 92,600
South Dakota $0.46 11,800
Tennessee $4.64 105,200
Texas $17.85 425,600
Utah $1.06 24,600
Vermont $0.48 9,400
Virginia $6.75 134,800
Washington $4.39 101,700
West Virginia $0.99 27,100
Wisconsin $3.10 75,800
Wyoming $0.26 6,500
Other $0.63 10,900
Not Reported $27.64 945,900

Silent Generation

As the oldest generation in the category, the Silent Generation has the fewest number of adults who have completed a college education. Each subsequent generation is more educated than the last. The Silent Generation has the least amount of student debt individually and on the national scale. Among all the generations their average amount of debt increased the least.

  • Average student loan increased by 10% for the Silent Generation in comparison to Generation Z’s 39% increase.
  • 1/3rd of the mostly retired generation report having no debt.
  • Only 14% report being concerned with their financial debt.
  • North Dakota had the lowest amount of student debt at $.07 Billion.
  • California had the most number of borrowers from this generation at 185,500.
Silent Generation State Demographics
State Student Loan Debt (in Billions) Borrowers
Alabama $0.96 24,400
Alaska $0.11 2,500
Arizona $1.62 39,200
Arkansas $0.49 12,900
California $7.89 185,500
Colorado $1.33 27,900
Connecticut $1.05 20,100
Delaware $0.24 5,000
District of Columbia $0.26 6,100
Florida $4.85 111,800
Georgia $3.04 61,500
Hawaii $0.29 6,000
Idaho $0.31 7,100
Illinois $3.18 71,400
Indiana $1.29 30,800
Iowa $0.52 13,400
Kansas $0.57 13,700
Kentucky $0.60 16,900
Louisiana $0.92 25,300
Maine $0.31 6,600
Maryland $2.01 37,700
Massachusetts $1.55 31,200
Michigan $2.24 56,200
Minnesota $0.93 22,300
Mississippi $0.68 17,400
Missouri $1.35 33,000
Montana $0.21 5,000
Nebraska $0.29 7,700
Nevada $0.65 16,600
New Hampshire $0.32 6,300
New Jersey $2.38 47,600
New Mexico $0.49 11,000
New York $5.02 113,000
North Carolina $1.94 44,400
North Dakota $0.07 1,900
Ohio $2.93 71,900
Oklahoma $0.77 20,800
Oregon $1.02 23,500
Pennsylvania $2.95 65,600
Puerto Rico $0.27 10,400
Rhode Island $0.24 5,200
South Carolina $1.14 26,700
South Dakota $0.14 3,400
Tennessee $1.20 28,500
Texas $4.95 125,400
Utah $0.30 6,600
Vermont $0.19 3,300
Virginia $1.84 38,700
Washington $1.39 32,100
West Virginia $0.26 7,400
Wisconsin $0.81 20,000
Wyoming $0.08 2,000
Other $0.21 3,800
Not Reported $16.15 622,600

Debts Change Over Lifetime

Age is a significant factor in the likelihood of holding substantial debt other than student loan debt. Older age groups typically see Mortgage and Home Equity Lines of Credit as their greatest financial burdens.

  • Student loans are more likely to account for 30% or more of Generation Z’s total debts.
  • Student loans tend to peak at age 34.
  • Starting with Millennials, student loans accounted for less than 20% of their overall debt.
  • Mortgages on the other hand accounted for more than 60% of debt for the Millennial group and older age groups.
  • However, Generation X and Baby Boomers carry more student loan debt on average than college-age groups in addition to all their other forms of debt.

Sources

  1. Experian Research: Student Loan Debt Reaches Record High As Most Repayment is Paused
  2. Center For American Progress: Addressing the $1.5 Trillion in Federal Student Loan Debt
  3. S. Department of Education (ED) Federal Student Aid Office (OFSA): Federal Student Loan Portfolio
  4. Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends, On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About Gen Z So Far
  5. National Public Radio (NPR): Heavy Student Loan Debt Forces Many Millennials To Delay Buying Homes
  6. American Association of Retired Persons (AARP): Across Generations, Struggles with Student Loan Debt
  7. National Center For Education Statistics (NCES) Annual Reports and Information Staff Loans for Undergraduate Students
  8. Federal Reserve Bank of New York: Center for Microeconomic Data
  9. Wharton University of Pennsylvania Pension Research Council: Generational Differences and Debt