June 14, 2016
The National Association of Realtors, along with SALT, a consumer literacy program provided by American Student Assistance, released the results from a joint survey about student debt and homeownership. They found that “Seventy-one percent of non-homeowners repaying their student loans on time believe their debt is stymieing their ability to purchase a home . . ..” They have also produced a cool infographic to illustrate their main points:
- Nearly a third of current homeowners (31 percent) in the survey said student debt is postponing plans to sell their home and purchase a new one.
- A little over a majority of those polled (52 percent) expect to be delayed by more than five years from purchasing a home because of repaying their student debt. One in five anticipates being held back three to five years as well as over 60 percent of baby boomers. Not surprisingly, those with higher amounts of student loan debt and those with lower incomes expect to be delayed the longest.
- Mirroring other recent data on young Americans being more likely to live with their parents than in any other living situations, almost half (46 percent) of young millennials polled currently live with family (both paying and not paying rent).
- 42 percent of respondents indicated student debt delayed their decision to move out of their family member’s home after college.
I am not convinced that SALT President John Zurick is right when he says, “It is imperative to the nation’s economy that we find immediate and practical solutions to financially empower the 43 million Americans with student debt.” I think SALT and NAR are also overselling their findings somewhat in their press release headline, New Evidence Links Student Debt with Inability to Purchase a Home, because the survey reports subjective beliefs and does not offer any kind of baseline from which we can measure this current snapshot of consumer sentiment.
That being said, there has been a lot of concern about the relationship between student debt and household composition recently. It is certainly worth trying to understand the relationship between all different forms of debt and how they expand and limit choices available to households. And whatever the limitations of this NAR/SALT study, I have no doubt that the system for financing higher education needs an overhaul for its own sake as well as for the impacts it has on other choices that households make.