In Which I Attempt to Match the Times’ Non-Reporting

Annie Lowrey, “Student Debt Slows Growth as Young Spend Less,” New York Times.

Do yourself a favor and don’t bother reading the piece. No that’s not reverse psychology; it really just rehashes stuff you already know, especially once you get to the bit of propaganda in the fourth-to-the-last paragraph:

On the other side of the equation, many college graduates now in their 20s and early 30s should eventually be able to make up for lost ground. Students who take on debt to pay for higher education commit themselves to paying off huge sums, but they usually lift their lifetime earnings by substantial amounts. And they are in a better position to insulate themselves against economic bad times, given the profound rewards the job market provides to the college-educated.

Four paragraphs earlier, the article states that the average (I think, the article doesn’t say) debt-to-income ratio for households under 35 has grown from 1:1 to 1.5:1 between 2001 and 2010. How lifetime earnings can rise while the young—which, I interject, are people whom society treated as full adults a few decades ago—are spending more on debt service is unexplained.

Okay, I can’t match the Times‘ non-reporting; here’s some value-added:

(1) More Americans have college educations than the past, so logically it’s harder to say that it provides an earnings premium. It could just be credential inflation.

Percent Workers by Education (25 – 34)

(Source CPS)

(2) Young(ish) college-educated Americans make less money than they used to.

Earnings by Education (25-34 Years, 2012 $)

(Source CPS)

I included professional degrees, but the sample’s pretty small. It’s accurate but imprecise. Do not take it for the value of a juris doctor; those probably pull down professional degrees’ values.

To be fair, though, I’m going to give a little credit to the Times because people’s incomes would be higher if the economy were at full employment, and it’s not. In other words, it’s unlikely structural degree oversupply is the primary force depressing college graduates’ earnings. Thus, the 1.5:1 debt-to-income ratio should be lower than it is. But just when exactly will college graduates in their 20s and early 30s “make up for lost ground” after their prime earning years? The Times doesn’t say. You’re supposed to have faith that *it* can’t happen here, *it* being rule by the future-present aristocracy in a democracy-lite.



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