Women have made vast strides in education, but research suggests it takes them longer to pay off their student loans than it does for men. My, my, whatever might be happening here?

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That’s according to a report by the American Association of University Women, picked up by Bloomberg Businessweek. The numbers are especially tough for women of color:

On average, women who graduated college in 2008 paid back 33 percent of their student loans by 2012, according to AAUW’s analysis of Department of Education data. Men repaid 44 percent of their debt in that period. Black and Hispanic women fared the worst of any group four years out of college. Black women had reduced their debt by only 9 percent in 2012, and Hispanic women had erased a mere 3 percent of their total loan bill.

Part of that is down to how much debt it took to get through school:

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Black women started life after college in the worst financial situation of any group. They took out a lot of debt to attend school—an average of $26,535—and took home the smallest paychecks of any group. In 2009 they earned $34,102 on average, meaning that, upon graduation, student loans took up a whopping 78 percent of their income.

But of course, it’s also hard to pay back your loans when you’re making less money: “Women in the class of 2008 earned nearly $7,000 less than men one year after they graduated college. That gap widened to $11,000 by 2012.” And the wage gap is even worse for women of color. All the while, those loans are racking up additional interest, inflating the overall bill.

Said researcher Catherine Hill: “People don’t believe that gender is still an issue. A lot of people think this is something of the past, that women seem to be doing well in education.” She added: “If you look at debt as a percentage of salary, it becomes clear that they aren’t in good shape.”


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.

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