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About one in five U.S. households was still paying off student loan debt in 2010— more than double the amount burdened with these bills two decades earlier, a new analysis shows. The Pew Research Center's analysis of the Survey of Consumer Finances also found that the poorest Americans suffer the greatest burden from student loans, even though households at the bottom of the income spectrum are less likely to attend college than wealthier groups. (Though higher-income groups tend to take on more student loan debt, they're also more likely to have the resources to pay them off more quickly, the analysis pointed out.) Also underscored was the speed with which these financial burdens are increasing. Between 1998 and 2004 the amount of student debt owed by household was relatively stable. But over the next six years, average debt shot up, leaving American student debt-owing households roughly $26,682 in the hole in 2010 compared to $23,349 in the hole just three years earlier.
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