Interactive map of student debt by zip code


Originally published at:


What happens if they call in your debt for non-payment? Do you have to give back everything you learned at college? Do they send someone round to punch the learnin’ out of you? Or do they just send to you prison to make white goods and house paint?


Keep in mind student debt isn’t just for college, a lot of this debt is for vocational/technical schools. And there’s nothing wrong with that, there are plenty of certifications or trade schools that are significantly more likely to pay off than a degree in classical Greek. But there has arisen an entire cohort of for profit schools that exist primarily to milk students for student loan money and deliver profoundly sub-standard training.


Isn’t this a case of


Clearly the rural south away from major metropolitan areas has experienced quite a population boom.


Thank you for calling attention to this. Like the seven-fold leap in mass incarceration – also suffered in vastly disproportionate ways by black and brown people – it’s another form of profit-seeking peonage.

The U.S. is rotting to pieces in so many ways, all of which seem to be caused by elite greed.


Not unless everyone in NYC, Boston and Chicago moved to rural tennessee it aint


I think it’s a reverse population map - the large cities are where student debt is low because the economies are solid and rich people live there, and when you leave them you get much more debt. Even the jobs that require degrees are paying less for the same cost.


Yep, and it’s hard to take a map seriously that uses labels instead of numbers. Is “Extremely High 5% in debt, 50%, 10K people, 50K people, etc.” [Update: the scale is defined further down the article]

Fun facts: Zip Code design partially accounts for population since zipcodes are designed to be handled by a post office so when they get too many addresses they are broken down. So total/zip code approximates total/capita. Except zipcodes also need to be deliverable from one post office, so you can get some huge zip codes with very few people where you are just mapping statistical noise.


I don’t think the silly labeling calls their methods into question. That’s like hooting and hollering that a misplaced apostrophe invalidates someone’s good argument. Which is a trick that a low minded person might try, but a fair minded person wouldn’t and instead would try to look through to the points being made.

What I see, when clicking through and trying to get a handle on their methods, is that they are reporting absolute counts, not rates. They developed an index by dividing student loans per household by total loans per household. But they failed to adjust for number of households in a particular zip area. Especially number of households of a certain kind, such as by race or ethnicity. So, we are seeing high numbers mixed with low numbers all over this choropleth without a denominator.

They need to adjust for the basis of the population, especially when they are trying to make the point that the problem is disproportionately affecting minorities. I didn’t see that method discussed anywhere on their report. Anyone, did I miss it?

Here’s more info on why this is important. Let’s take a rural zip code vs. a suburban one.

If 50/100 of those rural households are saddled with debt, that is a count of 50 and a rate of 50%.
In the suburban area, there are 100/1000 households saddled with debt, for a count of 100 and a rate of 10%.

I think the way they are doing it, they are reporting the 50 and the 100, not the 50% and 10%. The percentage tells a more salient story than the raw counts.

I’m still looking at this and scratching my head.

“To create the delinquency variable, we calculate a “delinquency rate” for each zip code by dividing the average number of student loans that are delinquent by 90 or more days per household by the average number of outstanding loans per household. Then, after winsorizing the top 1 percent of observations to the 99th percentile value, we project the “delinquency rate” onto a scale that ranges from 0 to 10.”

They say they are creating a rate from two averages, but where did those averages come from, and how were they calculated? Average number of delinquent loans… again, what’s the denominator? Or in this case, what ARE the two denominators going into those averages that are then combined to make a rate? I confuse.


I bet you can see my student debt from space


Thank you for reading the methodology so I did not have to do it.


But I don’t think I fully understand what they did.


You still tried lol. Seems complicated to wrap one’s head around, i know i wouldn’t try at all.


That dark spot in Northern California is me. :sob:


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