Young people in record levels of debt?

18 October 2017
What was claimed

Young people are in record levels of debt.

Our verdict

We don’t have enough information to say if debt levels of all young people—including those who don’t go to university—are at record levels. The average debt of university graduates is the highest it has been.

“Young people are in record levels of debt. This week, the Financial Conduct Authority warned of a ‘pronounced build-up of indebtedness amongst the younger age group’ to fund ‘essential living costs’.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 18 October 2017

When it comes to all young people, it’s not possible to say if young people are in record levels of debt.

The official statistics we have suggest that the average debt for 16-24 year olds rose in the late noughties, but fell slightly between 2010-12 and 2012-14.

We can’t say for sure what has happened because this doesn’t account for inflation, or for possible error in the survey the statistics come from. We don’t have any more recent figures than this.

Mr Corbyn’s office pointed us to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies about the debts of English graduates to back up this claim. The report says that English graduates have the highest student debts in the developed world. At over £50,000, the average debt on graduation is more than double what it was in 2011 before the large increase in tuition fees in 2012.

About half of young people study at university level in England.

The chief of the Financial Conduct Authority told the BBC earlier this week:

"There is a pronounced build up of indebtedness amongst the younger age group," Mr Bailey said.

"We should not think this is reckless borrowing, this is directed at essential living costs. It is not credit in the classic sense, it is [about] the affordability of basic living in many cases."

He also said "There has been a clear shift in the generational pattern of wealth and income, and that translates into a greater indebtedness at a younger age”.

The Financial Conduct Authority told us these comments weren’t based on one piece of research or set of data in particular.

A survey published by the Authority today found 18-24 year olds had the lowest level of financial resilience, and that 55% had unsecured debt including student loans. This is the first time it has done this survey so there is no comparable data.

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