Student Loan Debt Bigger Threat Than North Korea?

In 2017, there are many potential threats, both internal and external, hard and soft, that vex the United States of America.

Our political machine has been bogged down in gridlock, much of our infrastructure is outdated and crumbling, and we remain actively involved in conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.

However, no other potential conflict has received more media attention than the one that is nearly 6,500 miles away from home: North Korea, and rightfully so.

Without question, the powder keg otherwise known as the Korean Peninsula poses the greatest existential threat to not only the U.S., but to the safety and stability of the entire world. The hermit regime of North Korea is not only advancing its nuclear missile program at a pace faster than anyone expected, but it also has a standing army of over one million fiercely loyal soldiers, and thousands of artillery pieces pointed at the South Korean capital of Seoul that could wipe out tens of thousands of civilians in hours if conflict broke out.  

If that sounds problematic, it is. However, Millennial Personal Finance discovered that Americans believe there is a greater threat than North Korea that is facing the U.S.: student loan debt.

Poll of 1,000 Americans: 56.40% Say Student Loan Debt is Bigger Threat Than Kim Jong-un and North Korea

MPF posed the following question to 1,000 American respondents ages 18 and up: “What is a bigger threat to the United States?”

Poll-participants were given two answer options: “Student Loan Debt,” and “King Jong-un.”

The majority of respondents, 56.40 percent, answered “Student Loan Debt,” while only 43.60 percent of Americans thought Kim Jong-un was the bigger threat to the well-being of their country.

The results of this poll were quite eye-opening in terms of revealing how grave of a problem Americans believe the national student loan debt is. According to MPF, the total outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. is $1.5 trillion. Further, there are 45 million student loan borrowers in the country and the average student debtor owes roughly $37,172 in educational debt. 

The country’s student loan debt is a prime example of a soft threat facing the U.S. No-one can say for certain what kind of impact an inflated student loan debt would have on the U.S., or what it would mean if the student loan debt crisis “came to a head.” Whereas with North Korea and Kim Jong-un, the threat is more concrete and imaginable. If the North Korean-conflict boiled over, there would be massive loss of life, large-scale warfare, and a concentrated war-effort from numerous sovereign nations.

At what exact point would the student loan debt bubble in the U.S. burst? If it did burst, what would happen? Would there be a government bail-out for the student loan borrowers or the student loan companies, or both? Even if the student loan debt bubble didn’t burst, would there still be a point in which the “threat” turns into a real problem? That scenario would probably involve a drastic cut in consumer spending, especially amongst younger Americans, which would in turn impact other industries like the automobile or housing markets. 

The difficulty in imagining what a full-blown student loan debt crisis would look like is what makes the results of this poll all the more telling. Most Americans understand what kind of threat Kim Jong-un presents to the U.S.: the threat of war, even nuclear war, the threat of loss of life, and the threat of a catastrophe that will displace and impact millions of people. In comparison, a student loan debt threat cannot be foreshadowed with any hint of certainty, yet American’s still feel more vulnerable to the country’s collective educational debt over a rogue dictator who may soon possess the ability to hit the continental U.S. with a nuclear missile.

One thing is for certain however, and that is that American’s are extremely concerned over the potential ramifications of their country holding $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Ramifications that, according to this poll, would be worse than war. 


The single poll question that was discussed in this report came from a poll conducted online by online polling company Pollfish. In total 1,000 Americans ages 18 and up were asked to answer the following question: “What is a bigger threat to the United States?” All respondents were asked to answer the question truthfully and to the best of their ability. This poll ran over a single day, September 27th, 2017. 

Project CRediT sources data from Wealthy Genius including net worth, earnings, and various wealth statistics.

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