NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Men who feel trapped by crushing student loan debt have one thing going for them: They're not women. According to The Pew Research Center, about one out of five (19%) U.S. households owe student loan debt, with up to 40% of households headed by someone 35 or under owing some amount of student loans. But though the burden of loan debt affects a significant percentage of those under 35 regardless of demographic, it turns out that women are hurt more. This is because though women and men pay the same amount for their college degrees, they do not reap the same benefits. A recent report by the American Association of University Women, Graduating to a Pay Gap, found that women are often paid substantially less than men upon graduation, putting a heavier burden of loan debt on women. The study -- which analyzed Department of Education records of more than 15,000 recent baccalaureate graduates -- found that among bachelor degree recipients for 2007 and 2008, women earned an average of $35,296 at their first post-college jobs, as compared with men at $42,918. A pay gap of about 7% or more is evident even among women and men who majored in the same fields and entered the same professions. For instance, female teachers were found to have earned only 89% of what male teachers earned. The report indicates that the difficulties women have in repaying student loan debt are dependent mainly on this pervasive pay gap and do not have to do with different levels of borrowing among men and women. In fact, the report found that women and men who borrow to ﬁnance their college educations usually do at similar amounts.
"There's been a lot of attention paid to student loan indebtedness but very little focus has been put to the way debt impacts men and women differently," AAUW director and report co-author, Catherine Hill, told Forbes. At the same time women suffer a pay gap after graduation, women are in greater need of a college education to ensure better career options and salary prospects. A study by Ohio State University in the journal Gender & Society this year revealed that men without a college degree have better chances of finding a job (and a better-paying one at that) than women. The study also found that women were more likely to take out loans than men -- with 40% of women and 34% of men taking out loans annually. "At least early in their careers, women suffer more than men if they don't have a college degree," said Rachel Dwyer, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, in a press release. "Women will go deeper in debt to finance college because they need the degree more than men if they want to earn a good living. Men will drop out at lower levels of debt."