For many of the 40 million Americans who continue to owe a collective $1.2 trillion in student loan repayments, the monthly financial burden of loan payments now exceeds that of buying groceries.
But more disturbing still: as this population of debt-holders ages, they’re having children—children who are more and more likely to take on highly burdensome student debts of their own.
Drawing from Pew Charitable Trusts and Fed data, the Associated Press reported Monday that Americans over the age of 40 now make up about 35% of those with education debt. Despite being older, Gen Xers between the ages of 35 and 50 still average the same amount of debt as recently graduated millennials: $20,000.
That can largely be attributed to the slowdown in earnings for Americans with only bachelor’s degrees, the AP reports, which prompted many Gen Xers to take on additional, heftier loans in order to return to pursue post-graduate education.
In turn, they are setting aside much, much less in college savings plans for their children: roughly $4,000 in households with teenagers, compared with $20,000 in households with teenagers in which the parents are unburdened by student loans.
This statistic prompted Pew Charitable Trusts to note in a July report that the low saving rate “could fuel an intergenerational legacy of debt.” And it could further discourage the children of Gen-Zers from attending college, or from choosing the best schools they can get into—as in the case of Andres Aguirre, who told the AP that he has urged his high-achieving, high-school-age daughter to attend community college in light of his own $512 a month in debt repayments.