MONEY Student Loans

Why It’s Harder for Women to Pay Off Student Loans

colleagues in a conference room

Data shows black and Hispanic women have struggled the most to pay off college debt.

The wage gap has made it harder for women than men to meet day-to-day expenses and save up for retirement. Now new research suggests it’s also hindered their ability to pay back student loans.

Women who graduated during the 2007-8 school year had paid off about 33% of their student debt between 2009 and 2012, according to a recent study from the American Association of University Women. That’s significantly less than the average for men, who had settled an average 44% of their loan payments during that time. What’s more, the data showed that 53% of women—compared to 39% of men—are contributing more money to their student loan payments that they can reasonably afford.

“The gap in debt repayment may also make it more difficult for women to take risks that could pay off in the long run, like changing job sectors or starting a business,” the AAUW wrote in the report.

The disparity becomes even greater when you take race into account. Between 2009 and 2012, white and Asian American women had paid down an average of 37% and 61% of their student loan debt, respectively. That’s a far cry from the figures for Hispanic and black women, who chipped away at just 3% and 9%, respectively, of their loans during that time.

One year after college graduation, women who work full-time are paid about 82% of their male counterparts’ salaries, the AAUW found. Generally, full-time female employers earn about 78% of the salary of white males, according to the White House. The difference becomes more pronounced for black and Hispanic women,who make about 64% and 56%, respectively, of white men’s earnings.

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