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ERIC Number: ED557547
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 142
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3039-5358-3
Out of the Nest and into the Red: Three Essays on Debt in Young Adulthood
Houle, Jason N.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University
The Great Recession of 2008 and rising costs of college have stoked popular and scholarly concern about young adult debt. Debt plays an important role in the lives of young people as they make the transition to adulthood, but little research has been conducted on the topic. This dissertation sheds light on the role of debt in the lives of young adults with three studies. The first study asks how indebtedness has changed across three cohorts of young adults in their twenties. The second and third studies examine how the acquisition of student loan debt is implicated in the early process of status attainment at a time when the cost of a college degree is high. To do this I draw on data from four different nationally representative surveys of young adults: The National Longitudinal Study of Men (1966 cohort), The National Longitudinal Study of Women (1968 cohort), The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979 Cohort), and the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (1997 cohort). The results show: (1) median debt has remained relatively stable over time, but young adults today have fewer assets than their predecessors and take on more unsecured debt, leading them to have higher debt burdens (e.g. higher debt to asset ratios); (2) Student loan debt acquisition is linked to young adults' social class of origin. Young people from well-educated or high-income families are relatively protected from debt. Moreover, the relationship between parents' income and student loan debt is nonlinear, such that young adults from middle-income families have a higher risk of debt than those from lower and higher income families; (3) Parents' education and young adult's postsecondary education interact to affect student loan debt. Parents' education acts as a safety net that reduces the positive correlation between postsecondary education and debt. Overall, the findings suggest that debt plays an important role in the lives of young adults as they become independent, and has become more burdensome for young adults across cohorts. Debt also plays an important role in the early process of status attainment, particularly for young adults who use debt as a way to pay for college. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A