Rachel Dwyer

Associate Professor

Department of Sociology, Ohio State University

NLS user since 2007

  • Nau, Mike, Rachel E. Dwyer., and Randy Hodson. Forthcoming. “Can’t Afford a Family? Debt and Young Americans.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.
  • Hodson, Randy, Rachel E. Dwyer, Lisa Neilson. 2014. “Credit Card Blues: The Middle Class and the Hidden Costs of Easy Credit.” The Sociological Quarterly 55(2):315-340.
  • Dwyer, Rachel E., Randy Hodson, and Laura McCloud. 2013. “Gender, Debt, and Dropping Out of College.” Gender & Society 27:30-55.
  • Dwyer, Rachel E., Laura McCloud, and Randy Hodson. 2012. “Debt and Graduation from American Universities.” Social Forces 90:1133-1155.
  • Dwyer, Rachel E., Laura McCloud, and Randy Hodson. 2011. “Youth Debt, Mastery, and Self-Esteem: Class-Stratified Effects of Indebtedness on Self-Concept” Social Science Research 40:727-741.
What I learned from NLS data

The NLS has been invaluable for advancing research on youth debt, in our project and beyond. In our research we have learned that youth have significantly variable experiences with debt. Access to credit provides opportunities to invest in social mobility and wealth accrual that youth might not otherwise realize. At the same time, debt raises risks and vulnerabilities for youth, a downside that may be hidden until a time of economic crisis in a family or the nation. Perhaps most importantly, we find that the opportunities and risks of youth debt-holding are unequally distributed. More advantaged youth can take advantage of the opportunities of debt-holding, with less concern for the risks, whereas disadvantaged youth experience more risks relative to opportunities. Because the NLS provides deep data on a broad sample, we have been able to uncover alternative pathways through the life course as inflected by the position of youth in social hierarchies.

Why I chose NLS data

The extensive wealth and debt data above all drew us to the NLS. The 1997 cohort was particularly well-suited for our questions because this cohort came of age during the 2000s when access to credit expanded rapidly for young adults, and then experienced the Great Recession right at a crucial point in the transition to adulthood.