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Noah Smith

Student-Loan Debt Is Crushing Millennials

The burden makes it hard to start a family, buy a home or open a business. That’s a long-term drag on growth. 

Feeling weighed down?

Feeling weighed down?

Source: Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images


In their 2015 song “Stressed Out,” which got an astonishing 1.5 billion views on YouTube, the band Twenty One Pilots had a line lamenting student loans. Atlantic writers Conor Friedersdorf and Megan Garber declared the song to be the anthem of the millennial generation. Many educated millennials would likely agree — since 2006, student debt has approximately doubled as a share of the economy:

The increase seems to have paused in the past two years, possibly due to the economic recovery (which allows students and their families to pay more tuition out of current income) and a modest decline in college enrollment. But the burden is still very large, and interest rates on student-loan debt are fairly high.