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Students in Distress: Labor Market Shocks, Student Loan Default, and Federal Insurance Programs

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  • Holger M. Mueller
  • Constantine Yannelis

Abstract

The collapse in home prices during the Great Recession triggered a sharp drop in consumer demand by households, leading to massive employment losses. This paper examines the implications of these labor market shocks for the dramatic rise in student loan defaults, which originated during this time period. Linking administrative student loan data at the individual borrower level to de-identified tax records and exploiting Zip code level variation in home price changes, we show that the drop in home prices during the Great Recession accounts for approximately 24 to 32 percent of the increase in student loan defaults. Consistent with a labor market channel, we find a strong relationship between home prices, employment losses, and student loan defaults at the individual borrower level, which is concentrated among low income jobs. Comparing the default responses of home owners and renters, we find no evidence of a direct liquidity effect of home prices on student loan defaults. Lastly, we show that the Income Based Repayment (IBR) program introduced by the federal government in the wake of the Great Recession reduced both student loan defaults and their sensitivity to home price fluctuations, thus providing student loan borrowers with valuable insurance against adverse income shocks.

Suggested Citation

  • Holger M. Mueller & Constantine Yannelis, 2017. "Students in Distress: Labor Market Shocks, Student Loan Default, and Federal Insurance Programs," NBER Working Papers 23284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23284
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    1. Laura Carvalho & Gilberto Tadeu Lima, Gustavo Pereira Serra, 2017. "Debt-Financed Knowledge Capital Accumulation, Capacity Utilization and Economic Growth," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2017_32, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H81 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - Governmental Loans; Loan Guarantees; Credits; Grants; Bailouts
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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