Student Loan Planner’s survey on marriage and kids found an undeniable link between student loan debt and delaying big life milestones. We found one in three borrowers with high student loan debt delayed having kids because of their debt, and 57% felt that student loan stress placed a huge burden on their relationship.
What’s even more profound is the stark difference in how high student loan debt affected men versus women when it comes to family planning.
- One in 10 women are not having children because of student loan debt
- 28% of women are delaying marriage, compared to 13% of men
- 10% of women and 7% of men have decided to have fewer kids because of student loan debt
Never having kids because of student loan debt
In addition to uncovering that borrowers are delaying having kids because of their student loan debt, we found that high student loan debt is affecting family planning at much higher rates for women than men.
Women with high student loan debt are twice as likely than men with high student loan debt to opt out of having children altogether, in part because of how much they owe. The data is staggering, with one in every 10 women reporting that they’re choosing to not have children because of student loan debt.
Only 5% of men said their high student loan debt influenced their decision to not have kids, while nearly double that amount of women — 9% — said their student loan debt affected their decision to not have kids.
“[I] do not plan on ever having kids as I don’t see how I’m ever going to get out of the hole and be able to do the things someone without my debt could have done and then had kids,” laments one borrower.
Many high student debt borrowers have upwards of six figures in debt — and in some cases, multiple six figures. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2015, it costs $233,610 to raise a child up to age 17, excluding any higher education costs like college.
For many of our borrowers surveyed, a difficult choice must be made between having children and paying off student loans. Unfortunately, this onus is much greater for women who have additional biological and financial considerations (like the wage gap, pink tax, etc.) that affect their decision.
Currently, women are making 82 cents on the dollar compared to men, according to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. That’s an astonishing 20% gap, and unfortunately, the gap widens for women of color.
This wage gap affects women of all occupations, too. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “Women, on average, earn less than men in nearly every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio.”
On top of the wage gap, women also pay the “pink tax” for some products. According to the website Pink.Tax, “The Pink Tax refers to the phenomenon whereby goods and services cost more for females than males for no good reason.
The culprits include service providers, marketers and sellers of consumer goods (a lot of those goods and their packaging have pink on them), state governments, and the U.S. government. Sadly, the Pink Tax also happens to be a global phenomenon that rears its ugly head in many parts of the world.”
For example, razors marketed to women are more costly than razors marketed to men. Between the wage gap and pink tax, as well as high student loan debt, women are getting hit on all sides financially, and it’s affecting their family plans.
Delayed having kids because of student loan debt
The data illustrates that high student loan debt borrowers delayed having kids in nearly equal measure. Thirty-three percent of men and 36% of women chose to push family planning goals back because of high student loan debt.
Some borrowers decided to have fewer kids, which resulted in a slight difference. Seven percent of men and 10% of women chose to have fewer kids due to high student loan debt. Though still, one in 10 women are saying “no” to having kids because of high student loan debt.
One borrower from the survey noted:
Student debt has impacted every facet of my life. I am close to 300k in debt from law school. It contributed to the break up of a long term relationship. I can’t afford a home and I’m not sure I could even get a mortgage with this debt load. Kids are out of the question. Saving for retirement seems stupid when the interest rate on these loans is so high… Every normal life ‘milestone’ is delayed or put on hold indefinitely. Other’s are even worse off. With no way to even discharge this debt in bankruptcy, I believe we’re looking at a huge crisis on the horizon.”
Only 35% of women said their high student debt wasn’t a factor in their family plans, compared to 47% of men. In other words, the majority of high-debt women have had their family plans affected by debt, whereas only about half of men have.
“The high cost of grad school has disproportionately impacted women, who are delaying marriage and having fewer children than men at the same debt levels,” explains Travis Hornsby, founder of Student Loan Planner®.
One respondent said, “I feel like I can’t start my life until I pay it [debt] off and since I will be past prime fertility by that point I am now feeling that having kids won’t be a possibility for me.”
Delaying having children can potentially result in other financial costs as well. For example, some couples may turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF) to help conceive or have to pay out of pocket to adopt.
How student loan debt affects family plans by profession
What we’ve found from our survey data is that women’s family plans are more affected than men’s due to high student loan debt. When we dove into data by profession, we found even more interesting data about how student loan debt impacts men and women.
Physicians: Men have kids regardless of debt
When it comes to physicians, we found that men have kids regardless of their student loan debt. More than half of male physicians (53%) surveyed said student loan debt didn’t affect their family plans, compared to 44% of female physicians.
Dentists: More than half of female dentists delay having kids
There was a stark difference between male and female dentists when it came to delaying having kids due to debt. What we found was that 53% of female dentists delayed having kids because of student loan debt, compared to 33% of male dentists. Roughly, one in two female dentists have made the choice to wait, compared to one in three male dentists.
Veterinarians: Women deciding to not have kids at all
In our survey, we didn’t have enough data to compare men and women veterinarians. But out of 101 female veterinarians surveyed, we found 17% decided to not have kids at all due to student loan debt.
Pushing marriage back because of student loan debt
On top of affecting family planning and the choice of when and if to have children, high student loan debt is also putting the dream of a white wedding on hold.
High student loan debt is delaying the nuptials of many high-debt student loan borrowers. Our survey found that women are twice as likely as men to delay marriage due to their high student loan debt (which may differ from women with low student loan debt).
That means 28% of women compared to 13% of men have put “I do” on hold because of their educational debt. In some cases, it could be the big debt load that a person doesn’t want to bring into a marriage, as this would cause undue stress. But there are also other practical considerations as well.
For many income-driven repayment plans, getting married and changing your tax status (filing jointly, for example) can drastically change your monthly payment.
“My loans have impacted my life in a lot of ways. Currently, I’m in a relationship and would like to get married, but my monthly student loan payment would increase by over $1,000,” says one of the borrowers surveyed.
A four-figure increase in your monthly student loan payment is something that can’t be ignored in anyone’s budget. This level of increase would significantly impact a borrower’s quality of life, as well as their discretionary income available for any non-need spending.
Another borrower bluntly said, “I do not want my monthly REPAYE (Revised Pay As You Earn) payment to go up so I am not getting married.”
How student loan debt affects relationships
It’s clear from the data that high student loan debt affects borrowers’ life choices. This debt is leading to marriage delays at a higher rate for women and affecting how many children borrowers plan to have, if any at all.
For borrowers who are already married, high student loan debt is still a major character in the background.
“Ever looming. Lurking in the background of all our plans or not plans due to the amount of mutual student loan debt that my spouse and I have,” explained one of the borrowers surveyed.
It’s not just couples that are being affected, either. Single borrowers who would like to be in a serious relationship feel trapped by their debt.
“Still living with my parents at age 29. How am I supposed to meet people?” noted one of the respondents.
“I worry that I’m seen as a less viable partner due to my debt,” echoed another.
As student loan debt continues to rise, more and more borrowers have to make tough decisions about their life choices.
Based on our data, women should be aware that their highly personal family decisions could be hit hard by the psychological and financial burden of high student debt. That doesn’t mean don’t go to school. It means try to go to the cheapest program you possibly can for what you want to do.”
The survey found that it’s more than just the numbers. Relationships and lives are being affected by student loan debt, which is affecting women with high student loan debt even more than their male counterparts.
We surveyed 1,382 subscribers from the Student Loan Planner® email list. Nearly 85% of respondents fell within the age range of 25 through 39 and included 62% females and 37% males. Sixty-two percent of respondents were married or engaged to be married, and 36% had kids. Over 30 different occupations were represented in the survey.