College has become staggeringly expensive in the United States—and for women, it’s even trickier to pay for. That’s because student debt stays with women after they graduate for longer than men, according to a new study released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) on Monday (Feb. 8).
Among 2007-08 college graduates who found full-time work, men paid off 44% of their student debt in three years, according to the study. On the other hand, female graduates paid off 33% of their student debt in that same time. The numbers are much, much worse when broken down by race: black women were able to pay of 9% of their student loans by 2012, and Hispanic women just 3%.
The culprit here seems to be the gender pay gap. Because women earn less than men—at every educational level and at every age—they spend more time paying off student loans than their higher-earning, male counterparts. Full-time, year-round Hispanic or Latina women workers earn about half (54%) of what a white man earns annually, according to the AAUW’s analysis, while black women workers earn 63% of what a white man makes every year.
Asian American women are the closest to closing the pay gap with men—among full-time, year-round workers, Asian American women make 79% of what Asian American men make, and 90% of what white men make. And they are actually paying off their student loans faster than anyone—Asian American women who graduated college in 2007-08 were able to pay off 61% of their student loans by 2012.
“Young women feel privileged, they feel very accomplished, they are sought after in many ways,” the report’s author and AAUW researcher Catherine Hill told Bloomberg. “But it does not seem to be paying off in earnings.”