April 13, 2023
This paper series is an expansion of the Student Borrower Protection Center's exploration of the geography of student debt disparities and the economic distress that borrowers of color, particularly those who are Black and Latino, face in the student loan market. Research has increasingly shed light on the vast racial disparities present in the student debt crisis. Beyond rising balances and unaffordable monthly bills, student debt has far-reaching effects on the lived experience of student loan borrowers and the communities in which they live.In 2020, the SBPC published Disparate Debts, an examination of racial disparities in student debt burdens and borrower distress across US cities in general and in DC, Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco in particular. Expanding on Disparate Debts, this series, Student Debt in the South, leverages previous work to examine the intersection of race and student debt throughout the South, including efforts to highlight the burdens that student loan borrowers face in both cities and rural communities.As a part of the Student Loan Law Initiative (SLLI) and in partnership with the University of California Berkeley, we have analyzed proprietary data from the University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UCCCP) data on the far-reaching effects of student debt in several metropolitan and rural areas across the South. The descriptive and demographic insights gleaned from these data help us understand the local effects of rising student debt and borrower distress and to underscore where the student debt crisis disproportionately affects certain communities, particularly communities of color.The first report in this series focuses on the city of Atlanta, providing a case study on the effects of student debt on the Black middle class and the shifting impacts of student debt on communities of color over the past decade.