Does Credit Card and College Debt Make Young People Feel Good About Themselves? | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Studies in Crap

Does Credit Card and College Debt Make Young People Feel Good About Themselves?

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Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 12:02 PM
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If you're young and want to feel good about yourself -- empowered and in control of you life -- there's one easy solution you may not have thought about:

Pile on the debt.

Amazingly, according to a recent nationwide study, the more credit card debt and college loans that young people aged 18 to 27 have, the better they feel about themselves.

When researches from Ohio State started out on their quest to see how debt impacts self-esteem, they thought that college debt might been looked upon favorably, because it is an investment in one's future, whereas credit card debt might be seen as a bummer.

"Surprisingly," lead researcher Rachel Dwyer has said, "we found that both kinds of debt had positive effects for young people. It didn't matter the type of debt, it increased their self-esteem and sense of mastery."

How the hell can this be, you ask?

Dwyer theorizes that racking up credit card bills on important things such as college text books, which helps pursue an education, is seen as a good thing, and says that when it comes to buying non-essential crap, "They may feel good about their debt because it allows them to buy the things they want without having to delay gratification."

To the older generations, this might seem like madness. And Dwyer concedes age does play a role in this phenomenon. Out of the 3,079 young adults she studied, only the oldest were stressed out about owing lots of money.

Says Dwyer:

Debt may make young people feel better about themselves in the short-term, but that doesn't mean it won't have negative consequences in the long-term. We found that the positive effects may wear off over time, but they still have to pay the bills. The question is whether they will be able to.

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