Collateral Damage? The Relationship Between Household Debt, Race, and Food Insecurity

Mackenzie Brewer , Baylor University

In the United States, almost 1 in 8 households cannot access adequate food for a healthy, active lifestyle. Household unsecured debts, such as credit card debt and medical bills, may be an unexplored financial constraint associated with food insecurity. Using the 2015 Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), I assess the relationship between unsecured debt, by type and amount, and food insecurity among lower-income households and examine whether the association differs across race/ethnic groups (N=3,643). Results indicate that medical debt and student loans increased risk of food insecurity even after accounting for socioeconomic risk factors, while no relationship exists between credit card debt and food insecurity. Moreover, the relationship between medical debt and food insecurity varies by race/ethnic group, such that it is especially harmful for food insecurity among white households. Efforts to prevent accumulating medical debt and student loans may be a critical step for eliminating food insecurity.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality