2021: 37.9% of students were at risk of poverty

  • 38.5% of students were financially unable to meet unexpected major expenses
  • Housing costs: A quarter of students overall and more than half of those living alone or in student shared apartments were considered overburdened in 2021

WIESBADEN - The German government's third relief package is designed to support students who, given their low incomes, are particularly burdened by the current high prices. 37.9% of students in Germany were at risk of poverty in 2021. This was announced by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) on the occasion of World Student Day on 17 November, based on initial results of the survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) 2021. The relative risk of poverty was even significantly higher for those who lived alone or exclusively with other students: a good three-quarters (76.1%) of them were at risk of poverty. By comparison, a total of 15.8% of the population in Germany was at risk of poverty last year.

According to the EU-SILC definition, a person is considered at risk of poverty if he or she has less than 60% of the median income of the population as a whole (at-risk-of-poverty threshold). In 2021, this threshold for a person living alone in Germany was 15,009 euros net per year or 1,251 euros per month. The income reference year is the previous year of the survey.

38.5% of students could not meet unplanned, major expenses

The federal government's third relief package provides for one-time payments for students to help them cope with additional burdens, such as a larger additional payment.  Financial bottlenecks are also reflected in the fact that almost two out of five students (38.5%) in 2021, and thus even before the current energy price crisis, lived in households that were unable to meet unexpected major expenses from their own financial resources. Among students living alone or with students in shared apartments, this was true for more than half (55.5%). Among the population as a whole, just under one-third (31.9%) were financially unable to meet unexpected major expenses.

Housing cost burden for students above average

Students also have little financial range when it comes to their housing expenses. In 2021, the average share of housing costs in disposable household income for students was 31.6%, significantly higher than the housing cost burden for the population as a whole (23.3%). Students who lived alone or in student shared apartments had to pay an average of just over half (51.1%) of their disposable income for housing costs.

If the housing cost burden is still more than 40% even after deducting any housing-related transfer payments received, households are considered overburdened. Last year, just under a quarter (24.2%) of students lived in households to which this applied. By contrast, in the population as a whole, 10.7% lived in an overburdened household. Again, students living alone or in student shared apartments had a particularly high housing cost overload: more than half of them (56.6%) were considered overburdened.

Methodological Notes:

The data are results from the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). EU-SILC is the main official data source for measuring poverty risk and living conditions at the federal level in Germany and in the Member States of the European Union. The survey has been integrated into the Microcensus in Germany as a sub-sample since the 2020 survey year.

The results for 2021 mentioned here are initial results.

Detailed information on the methodological changes, their impact on EU-SILC, and the difference between initial and final results is available on a special page.

In the present evaluation, students were defined as persons who stated that they belonged to the group "students, pupils or trainees without remuneration" both in the previous year of the survey and in the year under review and who were also at least 18 years old in the previous year.

In the EU-SILC survey, the basis for measuring income in a survey year is the net disposable household income (after taxes and social security contributions) of the previous year. Thus, the questions on income refer to the previous year of the survey (income reference year).

Both renter and owner households are considered in the data on housing cost burden. The term housing costs refers to the monthly costs associated with the household's right to live in the dwelling (for owner-occupiers: property tax; for tenants: rent payments). Utilities (water, electricity, gas, and heating) resulting from the actual use of the dwelling are also included. Also included: Expenses for the maintenance of the apartment or house, mortgage interest (for owners), insurance premiums (for owners; for tenants if they bear the costs) and other costs such as garbage collection and street cleaning.

The average shares of housing costs shown do not yet deduct any housing-related transfer payments the household may receive. In contrast, a household is only categorized as overburdened if, even after deducting subsidies received, such as housing allowance, more than 40% of disposable household income still has to be spent on housing costs.


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