Financial Stress and Hardship among Young Adults: The Role of Student Loan Debt

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Analyzing data from the 2018 National Financial Capability Study, this study investigated the associations between, student loan debt and financial stress and hardship among young adults. The results show that student loan debt was positively related to all indicators of financial stress and hardship, after controlling for a range of socioeconomic factors as well as measures of financial knowledge and behaviors. In addition, minority young adults were more likely to experience health-care related hardship and higher levels of financial stress. This study further reports that financial literacy and emergency savings were important buffers againstfinan- cial stress and hardship among young adults, but utilization of alternative financial service contributed to their financial stress and hardship. These findings inform helpful, policy and practice implications for improving financial status of young adults with student loans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
Pages (from-to)84-111
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Sociology and Social Welfare
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Student loan debt
  • financial hardship
  • financial stress
  • race/ethnicity
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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