Dartmouth College Study Finds Racial Disparities in Student Debt Can Persist Later in Life

A new study from Dartmouth College has found that racial disparities exist in student debt between Black and White students. This study is the first to examine how these racial disparities change over a person’s life rather than only analyzing them at a single point in time.

According to the researchers, Blacks have 86 percent more debt upon leaving college than Whites. As they get older, this racial gap only gets worse. Fifteen years after college, Black people have nearly double the debt of White people. This may be the result of the fact that Blacks are more likely to have attended for-profit institutions, which are generally more expensive, as well as underfunded institutions, which have limited financial aid available to their students.

Additionally, the study found that African-Americans are more likely to have a harder time paying back their debt than Whites since they are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds and to have dropped out of college before earning their degree. They are also less likely to have significant amounts of financial support from their parents when paying for college.

The researchers believe that these disparities in student debt may contribute to the severe racial economic inequality that exists in the United States. According to their findings, student debt attributed to about 20 percent of the Black-White wealth gap among those who attended college. The research team plans to conduct future studies on how institutions can better address these issues.

The full study, “Racial Disparities in Student Debt and the Reproduction of the Fragile Black Middle Class” was published in the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity.  It can be accessed here.

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