Finance and Assets

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

Event information
Tue Mar 20, 2018
1:00pm - 2:00pm
Online Video Livestream
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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 Chaddha, Senior Policy Analyst, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, @BostonFed
  • Megan Kiesel, Co-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 Ogden, Senior Fellow, The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program, @timothyogden
  • Fred Wherry, Professor 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.

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


  • Ida Rademacher, Vice President, The Aspen Institute; Executive Director, The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program, @idarademacher
  • Joanna Smith Ramani, Managing 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