Millennials are struggling to achieve common life goals as they accumulate a significant amount of debt.
- More than any generation before them, millennials are struggling to move forward in life due to historic levels of debt.
- Americans in their 30s have more than $3.8 trillion in debt, a 27% increase from three years ago, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
- During student loan repayment pauses at the beginning of COVID, some were able to make a little headway in paying back their debts, but surging inflation has nearly wiped out all progress for many.
- The rising cost of living, soaring home prices, and high interest rates have piled on even more debt to an already debt-laden generation.
- Gen Z, the generation after millennials, is likely to follow the same pattern, according to LinkedIn News.
Why it’s news
Increased debt levels prevent millennials from achieving typical life milestones like buying a house or starting a family. The average millennial is around $40,000 in debt, according to Fortune.
Already, millennials are waiting longer to have children than the generations before them. While this is often attributed to choice, the growing debt is undoubtedly a contributing factor in that decision.
This hesitancy to start families has led to declining birth rates in the U.S. Fertility rates are at the lowest level in nearly half a century, Fortune reports. Reduced birth rates open the U.S. to dangers associated with an aging population, reduced workforce, smaller tax base, and the inability to fund pensions.
When the effects of a reduced birth rate are taken into consideration, millennials’ mountain of debt does not just affect their generation but has the potential to affect multiple generations after them. The reduced birth rate could have macroeconomic effects for decades.
As the U.S. debt rate grows, the U.S. fertility rate shrinks proportionally. When looking at women born in the 1980s who earned college degrees, sociologist Arielle Kuperberg found that 60% of women with student loans had children by age 40. That’s compared to 67% of women who did not have loans.
When considering national fertility rates, Kuperberg says that the 7.5 percentage point discrepancy is significant—representing 715,000 women of reproductive age.
U.S. fertility rates in 2020 reached 1.64 births per woman. At the same time, the cumulative student loan debt climbed to $1.7 trillion.