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College, credit card debt ups self esteem

College, credit card debt ups self esteem
A graduate wears a decorated mortarboard at George Washington University's commencement ceremony in Washington on May 16, 2010. First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the commencement address. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 7 (UPI) -- A study of college graduates ages 18-34 indicates the higher the college debt, the higher the self-esteem, except for the very wealthy, U.S. researchers say.

Rachel Dwyer and Randy Hodson of Ohio State University in Columbus, and Laura McCloud, an Ohio State graduate now at Pacific Lutheran University, say instead of feeling stressed by their college and credit card debt, many young adults feel empowered.

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"Young people seem to view debt mostly in just positive terms rather than as a potential burden," Dwyer says in a statement.

The study involved 3,079 young adults who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth that interviews the same nationally representative group every two years.

The researchers examined data on two types of debt: loans taken out to pay for college with -- a mean of more than $6,500 -- and total credit-card debt -- a mean of $2,872.

The study, published in the journal Social Science Research, found both forms of debt were related to people's self-esteem and sense of mastery -- their belief that they were in control of their life, and that they had the ability to achieve their goals.

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However, how debt affected the graduates depended on their background. Those in the bottom 25 percent in total family income got the largest self-esteem boost from holding debt, those in the middle class didn't see any impact by having educational debt, but there was a self-esteem boost by holding credit-card debt, and those from the most affluent families had no boost at all from holding any debt.

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