EPIC Events | March 20, 2018

Consumer Debt and Financial Insecurity: Trends, Risks, and Emerging Solutions


Last year, total non-mortgage consumer debt rose to record-breaking levels.

March 20, 2018 | THE ASPEN INSTITUTE

● Overview

Just Released | Consumer Debt: A Primer

Today we are taking our understanding of consumer debt public with the release of our consumer debt primer.

This research primer sheds light on the meaning of current trends in consumer debt. It investigates the drivers, features, and consequences of consumer debt through a comprehensive review of the existing literature. This investigation, as well as our other learning and discovery activities, will prepare us to prioritize problems and articulate a framework for developing solutions in the next phase of the EPIC process.


Last year, total non-mortgage consumer debt rose to record-breaking levels. This alarming trend raises important questions about the impact on indebted households, such as: Are consumers borrowing more because they are becoming more creditworthy or simply to maintain consumption? How does the changing composition of consumer debt impact families’ ability to manage their finances and achieve long-term goals? What is the role of non-loan debt, including bills in collections and public fines and fees? Who is not benefiting from increased borrowing, and why?

Join the Aspen Institute’s Expanding Prosperity Impact Collaborative in a 1-hour conversation on Tuesday, March 20, beginning at 1:00pm EST to explore these questions. Tune in to our livestream to hear from experts in the field as they discuss what it means to be in debt today, the sociology of debt, and debt collections.


Panel 1: What does it mean to be in debt today?
This panel will provide a high-level overview of how debt is molding the financial landscape of our country, as well as explore the consumer experience many households face in coping with varying degrees and types of debt.

  • Anmol ChaddhaSenior Policy Analyst, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, @BostonFed
  • Megan KieselCo-Owner, Livelihood

Panel 2: The Sociology of Debt
How do individuals and households make sense of their debt? What are the ethical and moral dimensions of this problem? Is much of what we are seeing a result of structural problems and systemic inequalities?

  • Tim OgdenSenior Fellow, The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program, @timothyogden
  • Fred WherryProfessor of Sociology, Princeton University, @ProfessorWherry

Panel 3: Debt Collection
Debt in collections represents a growing challenge for millions of households. This is one of the strongest indicators of financial insecurity, and disproportionately harms households of color. This panel will address failures and abuses in the collections industry, and the challenging landscape for reform.

  • Tishaura O. Jones, Treasurer, City of St. Louis, @tishaura
  • Paul KielReporter, ProPublica, @paulkiel


  • Ida RademacherVice President, The Aspen Institute; Executive Director, The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program, @idarademacher
  • Joanna Smith RamaniManaging Director, The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program; Program Director, Aspen EPIC, @AspenFSP

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program is grateful to all of our funders who make the work of Aspen FSP and Aspen EPIC possible. Learn more here

● Event Details

Tues March 20, 2018
1:00pm - 2:00pm

Online Livestream Video

The Aspen Institute
Expanding Prosperity Impact Collaborative

Kiese Hansen


Your input and participation helps ensure that we have a level of dialogue and knowledge synthesis that is thorough and goes beyond usual sound bites.


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EPIC is an initiative of the Aspen Institute's Financial Security Program.


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