Do Young Adults with Student Debt Save Less for Retirement?
This paper examines the relationship between student loans and retirement saving behavior by 30-year-old workers. Total outstanding student loan debt in the United States has quintupled since 2004. Rising student debt levels mean that young workers must reduce either their consumption or their saving. To what extent do these workers cut back on retirement saving? Existing studies have lacked adequate data or controls for studying this issue: conventional financial datasets include too few younger households; the study samples used include older households whose student debt may be from their children’s education instead of their own; and many studies lack important controls to capture differences between attendees with more or less student debt. This study uses the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 Cohort, a larger sample of workers turning 30, and includes detailed controls including school quality, parental background, and the underlying ability of the college attendee. The analysis focuses on participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan and retirement assets as of age 30.