Lance Lochner, Todd Stinebrickner, Utku Suleymanoglu. 2013. The importance of financial resources for student loan repayment. Working paper 19716. National Bureau of Economic Research
Abstract: Government student loan programs must balance the need to enforce repayment among borrowers who can afford to make their payments with some form of forgiveness or repayment assistance for those who cannot. Using unique survey and administrative data from the Canada Student Loan Program, we show that nearly all recent borrowers with annual incomes above $40,000 make their standard loan payments while repayment problems are common among borrowers earning less than $20,000. Still, over half of all low-income borrowers manage to make timely payments. We demonstrate that other financial resources in the form of savings and family support are key to understanding this repayment problems are rare among low-earners with access to savings and family support. This has important policy implications, in part, because many recent proposals have advocated for a move to an income-based repayment system. Under such a system, many low-income borrowers in good-standing (due primarily to savings and family support) would pay less, while little new revenue would likely be generated from inducing payment among those that are currently delinquent or in default since their income levels are so low. Specifically, we show that expanding Canada’s income-based Repayment Assistance Plan to automatically cover all borrowers could reduce revenue by nearly one-half over the first few years of repayment. Although a sizeable group of recent borrowers would benefit from improved repayment assistance, our results suggest caution before broadly expanding assistance to all low-income borrowers, many of whom already benefit from informal insurance provided by savings and their families.
Client Satisfaction Survey (CSS)
Student Loan Defaulter Survey (DS)
Conclusion: For recent Canadian students, post-school income has strong effects on student loan repayment. Borrowers earning more than $40,000 per year have non-payment rates of 2-3 percent, while borrowers with annual income of less than $20,000 are more than ten times as likely to experience some form of repayment problem. On the one hand, the very low non-payment rates among borrowers with high earnings suggest that student loan repayment is well-enforced in Canada. On the other hand, high delinquency and default rates among low-income borrowers signal important gaps in more formal insurance mechanisms like RAP. These gaps have motivated growing interest in the expansion of income-contingent repayment schemes for student loans in both Canada and the U.S.
Despite relatively high non-payment rates for low-income borrowers, the simple fact is that more than half of them continue to make their standard student loan payments. We show that other financial resources in the form of personal savings and family support are crucial to understanding why/how so many borrowers with very low income still manage to pay off their loans. Low-income borrowers with negligible savings and little or no family support are more likely than not (59%) to experience some form of repayment problem, while fewer than 5% of low-income borrowers with both savings and family support do. Consistent with larger literatures in economics emphasizing the roles of savings and family transfers as important insurance mechanisms (e.g., Carroll 1997, Becker 1991), we estimate that borrower income has small and statistically insignificant effects on the likelihood of repayment problems for those with modest savings and access to family assistance. By contrast, among borrowers with negligible savings and little or no family assistance, the effects of income on repayment are extremely strong. We also show that measures of parental income when students first borrow (available in some administrative loan datasets) are a relatively poor proxy for these other forms of self- and family-insurance, which suggests that efforts to accurately measure savings and potential family transfers offer real benefits.
These findings have important implications for efforts to expand income-contingent repayment schemes that are under current discussion. We show that expanding the income-based repayment RAP to automatically cover all borrowers would reduce revenues by roughly half for borrowers early in their repayment period. This is because a more universal income-based repayment scheme would significantly reduce repayment levels for many low-income borrowers who currently make their standard payments. At the same time, little revenue would be raised from inducing borrowers currently in delinquency/default to make income-based payments, since the vast majority of these borrowers have very low income levels.
Altogether, we find that slightly more than half of all low-income borrowers have little self- or family-insurance. These borrowers currently have high delinquency/default rates and would surely benefit from greater government insurance (i.e., some form of repayment assistance). Yet, our results also suggest considerable caution is warranted before broadly expanding income-contingent repayment schemes. Many low-income borrowers have access to savings and family support that enables them to make standard payments. Lowering payments for these borrowers based on their incomes alone would significantly reduce student loan program revenues to the point of threatening their viability.
Our results suggest that the optimal design of student loan repayment schemes is more complicated than recent proposals and studies would suggest. Contrary to current thinking, the family plays an integral role in student loan repayment. This neglect is, perhaps, surprising given the established literature on family transfers and the central role parental resources play in determining financial aid at the college-going stage.20 Our results raise important questions about the extent to which government repayment assistance should depend on broader family resources and transfers (to the extent possible), since these clearly influence repayment behavior. They may also help in understanding puzzling differences in default rates by race in the U.S.- blacks have much higher default rates than whites even when debt levels and post-school income are held constant (e.g. see Lochner and Monge-Naranjo 2013).
除了低收入群体的高不还款率之外，还有一个简单的事实——他们中超过一半的人继续按标准偿还借贷。我们认为其他财务资源（譬如个人储蓄和家庭支持）对于理解低收入群体为什么/如何继续还款时非常重要的。低收入借贷者中59%的储蓄很少且没法从家庭获得经济支持的人都处于偿还困难中，而对具有储蓄和家庭支持的低收入借贷者只有5%以下的处于困难中。与经济学分析中储蓄和家庭支持作为重要保障机制一样(e.g., Carroll 1997, Becker 1991)，我们认为，对那些具有适量的储蓄和家庭支持的借贷者来说收入对偿还困难的影响非常之小。
我们的结论表明，学生借贷组合最理想的设计是远比现在的建议和研究更复杂的。与现在的思路相反，家庭在其中扮演了重要的角色。这种忽视是令人惊讶的：在家庭转移和父母收入在决定大学财务援助中的中心角色。我们的结论也提出了重要问题：政府偿贷援助是否应该取决于家庭资源和转移？因为这些已经明显影响了偿贷行为。他们也许也能够帮助理解美国种族间不同的负债率：当债务水平和毕业收入一定时，黑人比白人的欠债率更高e.g. see Lochner and Monge-Naranjo 2013).。