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Christine L. Williams, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Adam Goldstein - "Stratification, Financialization, and the Growth of Household Debt in the US, 1989-2007"

Wed, November 13, 2013 • 12:00 PM • CLA 1.302B

Why did household indebtedness in the U.S. double during the two decades leading up to the 2008 financial crisis? This question has sparked considerable discussion throughout the social sciences, but there has been remarkably little empirical research at the household level.

In this talk I present the results of new research using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances. I argue that patterns of debt-to-income growth are not well explained by existing theories, which view rising indebtedness as a compensatory response to the declining fortunes of the middle-classes in an era of wage stagnation. I find that debt-to-income growth was no greater among those with stagnant or declining incomes than among those with rising incomes. Moreover, debt growth was concentrated disproportionately among college-educated, upper-middle income households who expressed aggressive dispositions toward financial risk/reward. To better account for these patterns, I develop an alternative explanation that emphasizes changing cultural orientations toward borrowing and investment in an era of mass-participatory financialization.

Adam Goldstein is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of California Berkeley. His research focuses on the economic sociology of financial capitalism in the contemporary United States. Current projects examine how labor market insecurity and growing inequality have shaped households’ incorporation into financial markets since the 1980s; the growth of household debt; the organizational underpinnings of the 2008 financial crisis; and the role of local community structures in mediating patterns of housing market speculation. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Institute for New Economic Thinking. His work has appeared in the American Sociological Review and Research in the Sociology of Organizations.


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