This study examines the extent of emergent, outstanding credit card debt among young adult college students and investigates whether any associations exist between the characteristics of the communities in which these students grew up or lived and their credit card debt. Using data (N = 748) from a longitudinal survey and merging community-level characteristics measured at the zip code level, we confirmed that a community’s unemployment rate, average total debt, average credit score, and number of bank branch offices were associated with a young adult college student’s acquisition and accumulation of credit card debt. Community-level characteristics had the strongest associations with credit card debt even after controlling for individual characteristics such as a young adult college student’s race, GPA, and financial independence and familial characteristics such as their parents’ income and whether their parents discussed financial matters like establishing credit. The findings from this research may help to understand how communities can be better capacitated to support the financial goals of their residents.
Friedline, T., West, S., Rosell, N., Serido, J., & Shim, S. (2015). Do community characteristics relate to young adult college students’ credit card debt (AEDI Research Brief)? Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion.
Credit cards are a fundamental component of households’ financial portfolios in the United States; however, overreliance on credit may contribute to financial setbacks. The potential for financial setbacks is particularly concerning among the current young adult generation that is accumulating higher amounts of credit card debt than preceding generations. These trends have led many researchers and policymakers to argue that financial education should become a fundamental component of public school curricula, assuming that financially educated young adults would make better, healthier decisions about credit. However, young adults’ credit card debt may be more than an individual phenomenon. A young adult’s street address—the community in which they grow up or live—can be a key factor in determining how they use credit. This study uses restricted-access, zip code data from a longitudinal sample of 748 young adult college students to examine whether the characteristics of the communities in which they grew up or lived prior to attending college relates to their outstanding credit card debt. A community’s characteristics, such as its unemployment rate and concentration of mainstream banks, have the strongest associations with a young adults’ credit card debt even after taking into consideration their financial education or whether their parents taught them about money as they were growing up. Findings help to understand how communities can be better capacitated to support young adults’ financial health.
Friedline, T., West, S., Rosell, N., Serido, J., & Shim, S. (2015). Do community characteristics relate to young adult college students' credit card debt? The hypothesized role of collective institutional efficacy. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion.