1 in 5 households burdened by student debt, a record

LOS ANGELES — The share of American households affected by student debt has more than doubled in the past two decades, soaring from 9 percent in 1989 to a record of nearly 1 in 5 in 2010.

The 19 percent of households weighed down by school loans is higher even than 2007, when 15 percent owed money for their education, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

Young people are especially hard-hit, as are poorer Americans. Among households headed by someone younger than age 35, 40 percent have student debt on the books. For those with incomes in the lowest fifth nationwide, school loans are equal to nearly a quarter of income. The same group holds 13 percent of all student debt in the country, up from 11 percent in 2007.

But such debt is increasing for nearly every demographic in every economic category. Americans in 2007 owed an average of $23,349 — now they have to pay back $26,682.

Student loans now make up 5 percent of all debts, up from 3 percent five years ago.

All this as overall household incomes continue their decade-long slide, according to the government. The median annual income slipped 1.5 percent last year from 2010 to $50,054.

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