Interactive Maps Detail Burden of Student Debt in the Bay Area

September 9, 2019

A new interactive mapping tool released today by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco provides an in-depth look at student loan borrowing and repayment in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

The online mapping tool allows people to identify and analyze differences in student loan debt at a community-by-community level. Average median loan balances, delinquency and default rates are searchable by zip code, with an option to compare results with other nearby zip codes. The resulting maps show how student loan debt varies widely at the zip code level, identifying neighborhoods where borrowing rates are much higher and where delinquencies and defaults are concentrated. Although higher education is a critical driver of financial security and economic mobility, the maps show how many communities suffer from heavy student debt.

“The interactive maps show us the neighborhoods with the highest rates of student loan delinquency and default, many of which are low-income communities and communities of color,” said contributing author to the report, Bina Shrimali, DrPH, of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. “The maps help us recognize and better understand who is suffering from financial distress related to student debt by showing student borrowing and repayment outcomes by zip code within the nine-county region.”

The maps created by the tool expand on findings from At What Cost? Student Loan Debt in the Bay Area, a report co-authored with the San Francisco Treasurer’s Office of Financial Empowerment. The report found that, adjusting for inflation, total student debt in the Bay Area increased by 243 percent between 2003 and 2018. The percentage of the adult population with student loan debt increased from 6.2 percent to 12.2 percent and borrowers currently in default increased from 3.8 percent to 9.1 percent over that time. Negative impacts are concentrated in neighborhoods with high percentages of Black and Hispanic residents, such as Bayview, Hunters Point and Treasure Island. The mapping tool uses data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax and the American Community Survey.

“These maps provide remarkable focus on how student loan debt is imposing a crushing burden on hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents, while perpetuating and expanding the racial wealth gap,” said Treasurer José Cisneros. “I want to commend the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco for this invaluable tool to help policymakers – and cities – chart a path towards change.”

Visit www.frbsf.org/community-development to check out the new interactive mapping tool and read the full report. Or, use our voice search feature by clicking on the microphone in the search bar and saying ‘student loan debt.’


Tom Flannigan
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
(415) 974-2553


The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, with branch offices in Los Angeles, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Portland, and a cash processing office in Phoenix, provides wholesale banking services to financial institutions throughout the nine western states. As the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve System formulates monetary policy, serves as a bank regulator, administers certain consumer protection laws, and is fiscal agent for the U.S. government. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/sffed.