The Role of Financial Debt and Rising Inequality in American Social Life

In the past 30 years, American society, culture, political and economic life has been transformed by the shift from an industrial economy based on manufacturing to a post-industrial economy based on services. This change has been accompanied by long-term shifts in the social contract that created and sustained the U.S. middle class. This shifting social contract was accompanied by the deregulation of the financial industry and the marketing of credit and debt to an ever-wider swath of American consumers. Professor Kevin Leicht's research suggests that the use of credit and the wide availability of debt instruments have masked widespread changes and volatility in incomes, jobs, and prices of everything from houses to college educations. Research also suggests that these economic and political changes have altered the structure of opportunities for young people seeking higher education and entrance into the advantaged segments of the labor market.