Debt Stress, College Stress: Implications for Black and Latinx Students’ Mental Health

Faith M. Deckard, Bridget J. Goosby, Jacob E. Cheadle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Educational debt is an economic stressor that is harmful to mental health and disproportionately experienced by African American and Latinx youth. In this paper, we use a daily diary design to explore the link between mental health, context specific factors like “college stress” and time use, and educational debt stress, or stress incurred from thinking about educational debt and college affordability. This paper utilizes data from a sample of predominately African American and Latinx college students who provided over 1000 unique time observations. Results show that debt-induced stress is predictive of greater self-reported hostility, guilt, sadness, fatigue, and general negative emotion. Moreover, the relationship may be partly mediated by “college stress” reflecting course loads and post-graduation job expectations. For enrolled students then, educational debt may influence mental health directly through concerns over affordability, or indirectly by shaping facets of college life. The window that our granular data provides into college experiences suggest that the consequences of student debt are manifest and immediate. Further, the documented day-to-day mental health burden for minority students may contribute to downstream processes such as matriculation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-253
Number of pages16
JournalRace and Social Problems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Black and Latinx students
  • College stress
  • Educational debt
  • Mental health
  • Stress process model
  • Time use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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