Briefs & Summaries Financial Behaviors Financial Inclusion

Racial Disparities in Student Debt: Evidence From the Refund to Savings Initiative

This brief provides evidence that low- and moderate-income (LMI) Black households accumulate significantly more debt in pursuit of a higher education than do LMI White students, even after using rigorous methods to account for race- and debt-related confounders. Using data from the Refund to Savings experiment, the authors find that LMI Black households accrued $7,721 more in student loan debt than their White counterparts did. This finding is crucial in light of the financial vulnerability of this population both before and after college. That vulnerability potentially contributes to diminished returns and exacerbates racial disparities in educational outcomes and wealth accumulation. The brief discusses policy remedies that can continue to enhance access to college for low-income minorities while ensuring equitable outcomes during and after college.

Project: Refund to Savings (R2S)


Taylor, S. H., Perantie, D. C., Kantor, N., Grinstein-Weiss, M., Guo, S., & Raghavan, R. (2016, May). Racial disparities in student debt: Evidence from the Refund to Savings Initiative (CSD Research Brief No. 16-14). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.