The Student-Loan Hype Machine: Ritholtz Chart

Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg View columnist. He founded Ritholtz Wealth Management and was chief executive and director of equity research at FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He blogs at the Big Picture and is the author of “Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy.”
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Student loans are the next great subprime crisis! At least that's what the usual purveyors of doom and gloom say (see this, this and this). The numbers are big, the default rates are high, and soon enough this is going to tip the economy into the next crisis or recession.

Not so fast, writes Torsten Slok, chief international economist for Deutsche Bank AG, in his forthcoming September chart-book.

Slok notes that 93 percent of outstanding student loans have balances of less than $30,000; 1.5 percent of the U.S. population have a student loan over $50,000; and only 4 percent of people between the ages of 20 and 39 have student loans in excess of $50,000.

Higher loan balances are often, but not exclusively, associated with graduate degrees. Typically, the business professionals, lawyers and doctors who carry this debt can service it, courtesy of the higher incomes and lower unemployment rates they have compared with their peers.

When we look at the total amount of outstanding student loan debt, about 70 percent of borrowers owe less than 25,000 dollars -- a manageable amount.

To provide some context, the Federal Reserve Consumer Credit - G.19 shows outstanding student loans were $1.27 trillion in the second quarter of 2014. The outstanding credit card debt was $873 billion. Also, student loans typically have a 10-year maturity period, while credit card debt can be paid off or carried somewhat indefinitely.

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Barry L Ritholtz at