Applied Psychology OPUS

Household Economic Shock and the Academic Experiences of College Women

by Alyssa Deitchman

The economic crisis of 2008 rendered many families and individuals out of financial security. In light of this economic volatility in the United States, it is imperative to examine Socioeconomic status (SES) as a dynamic variable that is capable of fluctuating dramatically. Most research across disciplines uses SES as an independent variable to predict future outcomes. From this perspective, SES is conceptualized as a combination of three variables: income, occupation and education. As thousands of families have lost significant income due to the economic climate, using SES as a static variable becomes problematic. In fact, over 70 percent of parents of college students admitted to making significant changes in their economic habits as a result of lay-offs, salary-cuts and a fear of an inability to retire (Hogwharter, 2009). Literature addresses the propensity of a dramatic loss in economic resources through a concept known as Household Economic Shock. To address the potential for a household economic shock occurring in a college student’s life, this study will examine economic loss and academic experiences with the following research questions:

  1. How does household economic shock relate to an individual’s self-concept, agency and identity?
  2. How does a household economic shock relate to an individual’s confidence with which s/he can achieve both future and present academic goals?
  3. How does a household economic shock affect a student’s social and family relationships?

The current study used qualitative methods such as the in-depth interviewing technique, the Consensual Qualitative Research model (Hill, 1997) to code for individual experiences across three domains inherent in the research questions: intrapersonal, interpersonal and academic. In accordance with the literature, this study found all participants experienced anxiety, questioning the security of their future and methods of accommodative coping in their ability to adapt to their unforeseen economic loss. Household Economic Shock and Academic Experiences of College Women contributes to the lack of current literature on emerging adults who have underwent an economic loss in that it reveals the unique challenges of these individuals.