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Credit card debts of the poor: High and rising

Author

Listed:
  • Edward J. Bird

    (University of Rochester)

  • Paul A. Hagstrom

    (Department of Economics, Hamilton College)

  • Robert Wild

    (Department of Economics, Hamilton College)

  • Janet A. Weiss

    (School of Public Policy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220)

Abstract

In this article we report on a little-known aspect of the consumer credit explosion: It has also happened among the poor. Focusing on credit cards, we use data from four releases of the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), 1983-1995, to trace the evolution of the debt position of the poor as compared to that of the population at large. The data indicate that from 1983 to 1995 the fraction of poor households with a credit card more than doubled, and the average balances held on these cards rose almost as rapidly as the balances of nonpoor households. In 1983, fewer than 1 in 30 poor households had credit card debts greater than twice their monthly incomes; by 1995, more than 1 in 8 did. There is no strong evidence at the moment that the added debt has increased the financial distress of these households. Nonetheless, because of the debt increase, poor households at the end of the 1990s are more vulnerable to an economic downturn than they were at the end of the 1980s.© 1998 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management

Suggested Citation

  • Edward J. Bird & Paul A. Hagstrom & Robert Wild & Janet A. Weiss, 1999. "Credit card debts of the poor: High and rising," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(1), pages 125-133.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:18:y:1999:i:1:p:125-133
    DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1520-6688(199924)18:1<125::AID-PAM8>3.0.CO;2-7
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Domowitz, Ian & Sartain, Robert L, 1999. "Incentives and Bankruptcy Chapter Choice: Evidence from the Reform Act of 1978," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(2), pages 461-487, June.
    2. Brito, Dagobert L & Hartley, Peter R, 1995. "Consumer Rationality and Credit Cards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 400-433, April.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Igor Livshits & James C. Mac Gee & Michèle Tertilt, 2016. "The Democratization of Credit and the Rise in Consumer Bankruptcies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(4), pages 1673-1710.
    2. Christian Weller, 2009. "Credit Access, the Costs of Credit and Credit Market Discrimination," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 7-28, March.
    3. Yunhee Chang & Angela Lyons, 2007. "Are Financial Education Programs Meeting the Needs of Financially Disadvantaged Consumers?," NFI Working Papers 2007-WP-02, Indiana State University, Scott College of Business, Networks Financial Institute.
    4. Joanna Stavins, 2000. "Credit card borrowing, delinquency, and personal bankruptcy," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Jul, pages 15-30.
    5. Lawrence M. Berger & J. Michael Collins & Laura Cuesta, 2016. "Household Debt and Adult Depressive Symptoms in the United States," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 42-57, March.
    6. Timothy M. Smeeding & Katherin Ross Phillips & Michael O'Connor, 1999. "The EITC: Expectation, Knowledge, Use, and Economic and Social Mobility," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 13, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
    7. Smeeding, Timothy M. & Phillips, Katherin Ross & O’Connor, Michael, 2000. "The EITC: Expectation, Knowledge, Use, and Economic and Social Mobility," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1187-210, December.
    8. Grinstein-Weiss, Michal & Spader, Jonathan & Yeo, Yeong Hun & Taylor, Andréa & Books Freeze, Elizabeth, 2011. "Parental transfer of financial knowledge and later credit outcomes among low- and moderate-income homeowners," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 78-85, January.
    9. James X. Sullivan, 2008. "Borrowing During Unemployment: Unsecured Debt as a Safety Net," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(2), pages 383-412.
    10. Heather Boushey & Christian E. Weller, 2006. "Inequality and Household Economic Hardship in the United States of America," Working Papers 18, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
    11. Pryor, Frederic L., 2007. "The anatomy of increasing inequality of U.S. family incomes," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 595-618, August.
    12. Andrew Carswell, 2009. "Does Housing Counseling Change Consumer Financial Behaviors? Evidence from Philadelphia," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 30(4), pages 339-356, December.
    13. repec:eee:aumajo:v:19:y:2011:i:3:p:203-211 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Zhan, Min & Sherraden, Michael, 2011. "Assets and liabilities, race/ethnicity, and children's college education," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(11), pages 2168-2175.
    15. Smeeding, Timothy M. & Phillips, Katherin Ross & O’Connor, Michael, 2000. "The EITC: Expectation, Knowledge, Use, and Economic and Social Mobility," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(4), pages 1187-1210, December.
    16. Edward Castronova & Paul Hagstrom, 2004. "The Demand for Credit Cards: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 42(2), pages 304-318, April.
    17. Christian Weller, 2010. "Have Differences in Credit Access Diminished in an Era of Financial Market Deregulation?," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 68(1), pages 1-34.

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