After graduating college, women have $2,700 more student debt on average than men, according to a new report by the American Association of University Women.
While women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees in the US, they hold two-thirds of the country’s outstanding student debt — totaling nearly $929 billion as of early 2019.
AAUW attributes the gender divide to the increasing cost of college: while the median household income grew by only 14% since 1987, the price of a college education sky-rocked by 103% in the same time period. Women repay their loans more slowly due to earning less than men on average. Female graduates earn 18% less than their male peers after one year of graduation.
Women may also pay additional expenses in college, such as childcare, said AAUW CEO Kim Churches. Churches also said there are still families that save more for their sons’ education than their daughters’.
“It’s pernicious,” Churches told Business Insider. “Women have significantly less resources at hand, yet women live longer than men. It’s really a full lifecycle story.”
Black women are hit particularly hard by the student debt gender divide. While the average amount of debt for woman amounts to $21,619, the average amount of debt for black women exceeds $30,000. About 57% of black women reported that they had been unable to meet essential expenses within the past year due to student-loan repayment.
The AAUW, founded in 1881, is a nonprofit that promotes gender equality in higher education. The organization analyzed data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics.
Greater debt is one of many barriers keeping women from earning as much as men. Women working full time earn 80.7 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to a Business Insider analysis of US Census data. Companies are less likely to promote women into executive positions, and women with children still bear the burden of performing childcare on top of paid work.
Four in 10 working women say they experience gender discrimination at work, ranging from being denied a promotion to earning less than men in the same position, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey.
While the AAUW has documented the gender gap in loans in the past, there is greater visibility to the student loan crisis recently. The amount of debt millennials are in reached record highs, and economists have predicted the amount of Americans predicted to default on their loans could lead to a recessions. Analysts expect the issue to be at the forefront of the 2020 presidential race, as many Democratic candidates already released plans to tackle the issue.