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Women Take Out More Student Loans, Face More Debt Than Men



By Samantha Gordon
Posted February 24, 2013 12:00 PM

Women have to spend more on education than men to get ahead in their careers.
Women have to spend more on education than men to get ahead in their careers.

After completing their college education, women tend to find themselves deeper in debt than their male counterparts.  This is the price many must pay to have the same advantages as men when entering the job market.

Researchers from Ohio State University (OSU) looked at data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.  This study interviewed 3,676 individuals who were between the ages of 13 and 17 in 1997 and then followed up annually though 2010 and 2011, when the participants were between the ages of 25 and 31. The researchers gathered information about student loans and graduation rates, and then organized the results by gender. In doing so, they found that women were more likely to take out loans than men, as 40% of females applied for and received loans compared to only 34% of males.

Women Often Have to Work Harder Than Men

While women are able to hold the same jobs as men and enter into careers that were once male-dominated, they are still being paid less, on average, than their male counterparts. The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, on average, women earned about 81% of what men earned in 2010.

It costs them more to get these jobs as well.  Women are typically faced with more hurdles to reach the careers of their choice, which often involves taking out more college loans to obtain their bachelor's degrees.

"At least early in their careers, women suffer more than men if they don't have a college degree," said Rachel Dwyer, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at OSU. "Women will go deeper in debt to finance college because they need the degree more than men if they want to earn a good living. Men will drop out at lower levels of debt."

Is the Debt Worth It?

The debt incurred from student loans may be well worth the financial burden, as the OSU study revealed those who take out more loans are more likely to graduate with associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees or master's degrees. For example, the average student who graduated in 2011 walked away with about $26,600 in student loan debt, according to the Institute for College Access & Success' Project on Student Debt.

However, there is a cutoff point at which the amount of debt no longer correlates with an increased likelihood of graduating. The researchers found this level was about $2,000 lower for men ($12,711) than women ($14,682) after adjusting for various factors, including the participants' race, ethnicity, high school GPA, and whether they attended private or public colleges.

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