Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Has student loan debt eroded startup activity?

Since 2006 there has been a slowdown in the rate at which new companies have been created.  Is rising student loan debt a possible culprit?  We know student loan debt has been growing rapidly since 2000.  Unlike other forms of debt, there is no collateral for student loan debt, which is why it is so difficult to get out of such debt in bankruptcy.  Also growing amounts of student loan debt can discourage all sorts of asset acquisition and investment, so it is natural to think that business formation could suffer as a result.

Three economists at the Philadelphia Fed took a careful look at how new business formation across counties is related to student loan indebtedness, along with other types of debt.  (Summary here; full study here.)  The counties where student loan debt grew the most were also the ones with the slowest rates of new businesses being started, especially for businesses with fewer than five employees.  This is not necessarily proof of causation, but it certainly means that the subject merits further research.


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