How much America spends on graduation gifts: By the numbers

The Week

This year's high-school and college graduates will get a generous send-off, but their haul will be a drop in the bucket next to their student-loan debt

The class of 2012 might be heading into an unwelcoming job market, burdened by heavy student loans, but, for many, there's a thin silver lining. Parents, grandparents, other relatives, and family friends will be showering them with graduation gifts. Here, a look at the financial ups and downs of graduation:

$4.7 billion
Amount Americans are expected to spend on gifts for college and high school graduates this year, according to a National Retail Federation survey

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Percentage of Americans who bought gifts in 2011. That percentage is expected to rise by a few points this year.

Percentage of gift-givers who plan to favor grads with cash

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Percentage sending gift cards

Percentage who will give electronics. Roughly the same number said they would give clothing as gifts.

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Total the average gift-giver plans to spend

Amount the typical gift-giver spent in 2009, when spending hit a five-year low

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Amount the most generous age bracket — 45- to 54-year-olds — plans to spend

Average student-loan debt of two-thirds of graduating college seniors in 2010, according to the Project on Student Debt

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37 million
Number of Americans with outstanding student loans

$833 billion
Total U.S. student loan debt, as of June 2010. The figure included $665 billion in federal loans and $168 billion in private ones

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Amount the nation's student loan tab is increasing, per second

$1 trillion
Estimated total U.S. student debt in 2011, a historic high

Sources: Abilene Reporter-News, FinAid, National Retail Federation

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