The Fragile American: Hardship and Financial Troubles in the 21st Century

WCPC Seminar Series on Poverty and Policy: Winter 2012

Presented by Laura McCloud
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Work
Pacific Lutheran University
Monday, February 27, 2012;  12:30 - 1:30 p.m., questions / discussion until 2:00 p.m.
Parrington Hall Commons, Room 308
University of Washington


Laura McCloud is an assistant professor of sociology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. She received her Ph.D. in sociology at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio in 2010 and previously earned her M.A. in sociology at OSU and a B.A. in sociology at the University of Cincinnati. Her research pursuits are most broadly influenced by a desire to understand how individualized risk perpetuates social stratification. Most of her work to date specifically explores the relationship between debt and social class inequality.


Rising economic insecurity at the turn of the 21st century made Americans increasingly vulnerable to financial distress. Studies of bankruptcy records show that personal hardships like health problems, divorce, job loss, and income disruption are the major reasons Americans fall into financial ruin. For this talk, I will present nationally representative data from the Survey of Consumer Finances to discuss the relationship between hardship and a range of financial troubles including bankruptcy, default, and credit access. I differentiate my analysis by class, expecting that debt troubles fall especially hard on middle-income families. I will argue that while the middle class is distinctly vulnerable, multiple financial troubles accompany hardship for all classes.


See the slides from this presentation here.