A brighter future: The effect of social class on responses to future debt

Harrison J. Schmitt, Lucas A. Keefer, Daniel Sullivan, Sheridan Stewart, Isaac F. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The present study serves as an exploratory investigation of the role of social class in responses to the threat of future debt. Previous work has shown that individuals of high and low subjective social class differ in the ways that they respond to a broad range of threats and uncertainties about the future. Across three studies, we found that lower social class individuals expect more future debt and suffer greater attendant stress than higher class individuals (Study 1). We found that experimental manipulations of debt salience increased stress for lower class and not for higher class individuals (Studies 2-3). Likewise, we found that higher class individuals experienced higher affect balance and perceptions of personal control when the possibility of future debt was made salient, specifically as a function of decreased fatalism about future debt (Study 3). These three studies reveal yet another situation in which individuals of lower and higher social class respond differently to threat, and serve as an important step toward understanding the psychological ramifications of rising debt in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-107
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Social and Political Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • Control
  • Debt
  • Social class
  • Stress
  • Subjective wellbeing
  • Threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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