In Sweden, higher college debt levels correspond with higher fertility rates

by Grace

College in Sweden is free, but students still end up with a relatively high average debt of about $19,000.  Along with higher student debt levels than other European countries, Sweden also has higher birthrates.

… And 85% of Swedish students graduate with debt, versus only 50% in the US. Worst of all, new Swedish graduates have the highest debt-to-income ratios of any group of students in the developed world (according to estimates of what they’re expected to earn once they get out of school)—somewhere in the neighborhood of 80%. The US, where we’re constantly being told that student debt is hitting crisis proportions, the average is more like 60%. Why?

Swedish young people become financially independent from their parents at a relatively young age.

… It’s pretty simple, actually. In Sweden, young people are expected to pay for things themselves instead of sponging off their parents….

Swedes, like other Nordic Europeans, have an independent streak. They leave their parental homes earlier than almost all their southern neighbors.

One study found that just 2% of Swedish men lived with their parents after the age of 30. In Spain, a quarter of 30-year-old men still are shacking up with mom and dad; in Italy it was around 32%. sponging off their parents.

Average ages at which grown children left the family home

  • 19.9  Denmark
  • 20.2  Sweden
  • 22.0  Netherlands
  • 22.1  Switzerland
  • 22.1  Israel
  • 22.2  Austria
  • 22.4  France
  • 22.5  Germany
  • 22.7  Ireland
  • 23.2  Czech Republic
  • 23.5  Belgium
  • 23.9  Greece
  • 24.1  Poland
  • 25.2  Spain
  • 26.1  Italy

For purposes of financial aid, Swedish college students are considered responsible for their own support.  This is quite different from Germany and other countries.

 … ideas about youthful independence are embedded in the system Sweden devised to pay for higher education. For example, whereas in the US parents are expected to help pay for the their children’s college education, in Sweden parental income levels are just not part of the equation. Students are viewed as adults, responsible for their own finances. As a result “levels of student support are based on students’ own income, rather than that of their parents,” wrote analysts in a white paper on the system. Compare that to countries like Germany, where any aid from the state agency that doles it out, known as BAföG, is premised on parental income. In the US it’s the same deal. In Sweden, the entire system is aimed at severing the financial link between parents and young adults.

Sweden has one of the highest fertility rates among European countries, perhaps related to the strong sense of independence expressed by young people.

… Some see clear links between young people moving out of parental homes early and taking the necessary steps to become parents themselves. (Anyone who has ever lived with mom and dad into their 20s will understand this intuitively.) “Childbearing in developed countries almost invariably takes place after young adults have left their parental home, and home-leaving constitutes a central correlate of fertility and union formation in Europe and other industrialized countries,” wrote sociologists in this 2006 paper.

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2 Comments to “In Sweden, higher college debt levels correspond with higher fertility rates”

  1. I suspect that Sweden’s high fertility rate has a lot to do with their extensive social supports rather than their debt level. Sweden is famous for having one of the highest single mom birth rates in the world.

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  2. I’ve read that in some European countries, most single-mom families are quite similar to traditional married-parent families in the U.S. Even though these European families do not formalize their arrangements, they behave like married couples.

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