"In the past, experts have explained this dynamic as a lifestyle choice. But in its new analysis, the Fed points to student loans as an additional factor in the gravitational pull away from rural areas," Waddell writes. "Researchers studied student borrowers, following their path across America for several years after they started paying back their loans." Their findings included:
- About half of rural residents who took out student loans still lived in a rural area six years later, compared to two-thirds who had not taken out loans.
- People with the most debt — those in the highest quartile of loan balances — were most likely to leave.
- Those who did move to cities did better financially. They were employed at higher rates and earned considerably higher wages, even when accounting for more expensive living.