CRL report blasts black women facing double debt and dwindling savings

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Student debt remains a stubborn obstacle preventing black Americans from achieving short-term financial stability and long-term financial wealth

*In mid-June, the Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank raised interest rates in hopes of curbing rising inflation and deterring a widespread recession. At the forefront of its responsibilities, the Fed’s duty is to develop “appropriate monetary policy.

For much of black America, many would appreciate the money itself – funds to provide a stable daily life, the ability to get rid of debt without worrying about whether families will have enough money to cover the expenses of the month, and even a little more left to face what the future can hold for us.

Student debt remains a stubborn obstacle that prevents black Americans from achieving short-term financial stability and long-term financial wealth. According to the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, after 20 years of repayment, the typical black borrower still owes 95% of their cumulative total borrowings, while white borrowers in a similar situation have reduced their debt by 94% – with nearly half of white borrowers having no student debt.

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic complicating family finances, the ability of many working Americans to maintain economic stability is approaching a breaking point. Moreover, because of historical racial wealth inequalities, these and other impacts are felt most harshly by Black America in general and Black women in particular.

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Student debt remains a stubborn obstacle preventing black Americans from achieving short-term financial stability and long-term financial wealth
2022 CRL Graph Black women are more than twice as likely as white men to owe more than $50,000 in undergraduate student loans.

A new study from the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) analyzes how women’s finances have changed over the past two years. The study, titled Resilient but more indebted: Women of color have faced greater hardship due to COVID-19shows how the lives of these women have changed drastically due to the pandemic and worsening student debt.

The report says black women have faced “a double whammy of rising debt and falling savings.”

CRL analyzed publicly available data and also commissioned four focus groups of ethnically diverse women with varying levels of education who lost their jobs or were laid off during the pandemic.

For context, it is relevant to note that:

  • Between December 2019 and March 2022, 1.2 million women left the labor market;
  • Between February 2020 and April 2020, nearly 22 million jobs were lost; and
  • In 2021, black and Latina women were twice as likely as white men to report being behind on rent or mortgage payments.

Overall, the results indicate that the widespread disruption of employment due to the pandemic has had a profound impact on women, their families and their finances, says the report. “While a typical white male borrower pays off nearly half of his balance within 12 years of entering college, a typical black female borrower’s balance increases by 13 percent.”

Moreover, about two-thirds of the federal student debt burden of $1.7 trillion is borne by women. Black women are twice as likely to have over $50,000 in undergraduate debt compared to white men.

Black and Latino borrowers generally have higher loan balances than white women. As a result, student loan repayment difficulties for women of color are higher and strain the ability to cover their family’s day-to-day expenses, especially due to rising food and housing costs.

“Because of persistent wage disparities and little or no generational wealth, women of color have fewer opportunities to pursue a debt-free education or weather an economic or personal crisis,” added Sunny Glottmanresearcher at CRL.

The research found that 60% of black women and 40% of Latina participants owed more than $50,000 in student debt. By comparison, only 29% of white participants owed more than $50,000 in student loan debt.

Although focus group participants found the federal break on helpful payments and accrued interest, few felt financially prepared to resume payments when the payment pause expires on August 31, and many anticipated worsening financial hardship.

CRL is among a growing number of consumer advocates calling for $50,000 in student debt forgiveness per borrower. In addition, CRL also recommends greater investments in higher education at the federal and state levels to support public and private HBCUs.

For example, doubling the annual Pell Grant that serves many students of color would better keep pace with rising college feess. Other forms of support could provide research contracts and internships.

Retroactively implementing Income Repayment Plans (IDRs) to remove lifetime debt repayments and improving access to the Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Program are additional federal measures that would provide debt relief. unsustainable student of the country.

Inaction on student debt relief should not be an option. Instead, policies must be implemented to relieve, as the report puts it, “an albatross perpetuating a base of financial anxiety.”

Charlene Crowell is a senior researcher at the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be contacted at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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