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The Average 27 Year Old? Educated and Broke

Highly Educated, Highly Indebted: The Lives of Today's 27-Year-Olds, In Charts

In the spring of 2002, the government's researchers began tracking a group of roughly 15,000 high school sophomores—most of whom would be roughly age 27 today—with the intention of following them through early adulthood. Like myself, many of those students graduated college in 2008, just in time to grab a front-row seat for the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the economic gore fest that ensued. In 2012, the government’s researchers handed their subjects an enormous survey about their lives in the real world.

Here, I've pulled together the most interesting findings. (One important note: I've shorthanded this group as "today's 27-year-olds." But again, not all of the study participants are precisely that age.)

1. More than 84 percent of today's 27-year-olds have some college education. Only a third have a bachelor's degree.

Ever hear someone say that "a college degree is the new high school diploma"? It's not really true. But getting at least a bit of higher education is now the norm.

2. Asians are far more likely to have a bachelor's degree than Blacks, Hispanics, or Whites.

3. School was hard.

Of those sophomores who expected to eventually earn a bachelor's degree, 34 percent did it. But school was easier if your mom and dad had money. Of students whose parents were in the top quarter of earners, 60 percent attained a bachelor's degree or higher. Of students whose parents were in the bottom quarter of earners, only 14.5 percent pulled that off.

4. About half of today's 27-year-olds borrowed students loans.

The math: About 84 percent of this group started college. About 60 percent of the college goers took out loans. What about other debt? About 79 percent of today's 27-year-olds owe some money, whether that's on a credit card or mortgage. About 55 percent owe more than $10,000.

5. In 2012, college dropouts were almost three times more likely to be unemployed than college graduates.

6. Since Obama came into office, 40 percent have spent some time unemployed.

Personally, I'm shocked it's that low. Meanwhile, less than one-third have actually lost a job since January 2006.

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