Fusion Poll: Student loans are stressing women out far more than men

Lauren Tara LaCapra
Elena Scotti/FUSION

A new Fusion poll reveals a big gender gap in the crushing burden of student loans.

Women ages 18 to 35 are almost twice as likely as men to have felt stress about a student loan, the poll finds. They're also more likely to borrow to pay for higher education in the first place.


Women are outpacing men in college enrollment, but, of course, women generally earn less to pay off loans after they graduate.

Overall, student loan debt worries young people so much that 31% say it wasn't worth it. That figure is 37% for those who make $50,000 or less.

Those are the key findings of a Fusion 2016 Issues Poll taken in the early days of a presidential campaign that will focus in part on what to do about the student loan burden—estimated at $1.3 trillion in all, more than Americans owe on their credit cards.


Candidates have outlined plans ranging from Bernie Sanders' proposal to make tuition free at state universities to Marco Rubio's plan to encourage investors to lend money to individual students. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has been trying to make it easier for students to pick the right college and for graduates to deal with their debt.


In the poll, many of those who borrowed to finance their education say they've had to change their plans in life because of the debt—taking jobs they didn't want, putting off home and car purchases, and even delaying getting married or having kids.

The poll also found:

  • 32% of women ages 18 to 35 have felt stressed about a student loan, compared with just 17% for men.
  • 47% of young women have taken out a student loan, compared with 33% of men. In all, 40% of young people have taken out loans for education.
  • Among those who have taken out loans, 67% of women report having felt stress, compared with 52% of men.
  • 37% of women have taken out student loans and still owe money on them, vs 23% of men.

The poll includes a larger sample of young people than most surveys, allowing for detailed analysis of their attitudes. They are a generation that came of age at a time of economic crisis and reduced public financing for higher education.


Not surprisingly, young people who owe more money are more likely to feel stressed about it. Among those who owe more than $20,000, 70% feel stress about it, including 27% who call it serious stress.

Loans also cause stress more often for people making less money. Three-quarters of those with incomes under $50,000 reported loan stress. Among those making more money, stress drops to about half.


Fusion’s 2016 Issues Poll was produced by Langer Research Associates with interviews conducted by SSRS via landline and cellphone interviews Oct. 7-20 among a random sample of 922 adults ages 18 to 35, including 375 who have taken out a student loan.

Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points for the full sample and 5.5 points for borrowers. You can read the methodology here.


I oversee Fusion's money section and have spent most of my time as a journalist writing about banks and finance. I live in Brooklyn with my partner Geoffrey & our two dogs, Captain & Tallulah. Favs: leopard print, Diet Coke, gummy candy, Ireland.

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