Abstract: Age Effect on the Relationship between Education and Debt Among African American Women (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Age Effect on the Relationship between Education and Debt Among African American Women

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Mint, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Erica Robinson, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Background and Purpose: Marriage has historically played a significant role in American women's financial security (Addo, 2013). Studies have found that women who marry and remain married accumulate more wealth than women who divorce or never marry (Addo, 2013). Alternatively, education has been identified as an influential factor in improving financial capital for modern women (Bourdieu, 1996). Today, college enrollment and graduation rates for young women from every racial/ethnic group are higher than their male counterparts (Aud et al., 2010). Numerous studies, such as Baum’s (2015), document black students' overrepresentation among student loan borrowers. This cross-sectional study examined the moderating role of age in the relationship between years of education and debt accumulation for African American women.

Methods: Data used were drawn from the 2013 Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), which provides a unique opportunity to understand connections between economic status over multiple generations. The analytic sample consisted of cases of black females (n=1023). Women in the sample ages ranged from 25- to 64-years old with 50% between the ages of 25- and 44-years old (n=514). Within the sample, the average debt amount was $8,896.88, with a range from $0 to $343,176.94. Descriptive statistics were ran for study variables: debt, age, years of education, wealth, and years of marriage. Linear regression analysis was performed using SPSS.

Results: Findings revealed a significant and positive relationship between years of education and debt (β=.30, p <.001) after controlling for covariates. The moderating effect showed that the positive relationship between education and debt was more prominent for participants age 25-44. Conversely, the interaction effect between years of education and age was found to be significant yet negative (β =-.54, p=.006), this may be due to younger aged black women seeking more education in comparison to older black women.

Conclusions and Implications: As more young women pursue college and baby boomers enter retirement age, understanding factors that impact debt accumulation among women becomes essential for social workers. This knowledge will be particularly helpful to those who work with black women disproportionately represented among student loan borrowers.


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Baum, S., & Johnson, M. (2015). Financing public higher education: The evolution of funding (Report). Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Bourdieu, P. (1996). The state nobility: Elite schools in the field of power. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

Panel Study of Income Dynamics (2021) public use dataset. Produced and distributed by the Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. retrieved February 6, 2021 from https://psidonline.isr.umich.edu

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