Young people and debt: getting on with austerities

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This paper draws on five successive, comparable studies of English young people's experiences and opinions of debt, conducted between 2004 and 2014. The paper makes three main contributions to conceptualisations of geographies of young people and economic change. First, I evidence how multiple forms of indebtedness have become increasingly commonplace, taken-for-granted, normative, efficacious constituents of many young people's everyday geographies in England over the last decade. Second, I argue that young people's narratives of debt have increasingly been infused with a particular sense of the inevitability of future debt, especially in a ‘current climate’ of ‘austerity’. Third, I explore some day-to-day narratives, practices and dispositions through which young people ‘get on with’ presently experienced and anticipated future debts. In particular, and in distinction to much extant research on young people and debt, I highlight the constitutive presence of anticipated, ‘inevitable’, future indebtedness in many young people's everyday geographies. I suggest that the recognition that young people frequently, and increasingly, figure future debts – and their inevitability – as burdensome, problematic presences within present-day geographies necessitates a conceptual widening of normative understandings of young people's participation in contemporary economic geographies: beyond formulations of ‘student debt’, beyond a commonplace focus on young people as consumers and beyond assumptions of young people as passive victims of economic change.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date10 Sep 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Sep 2015


  • Young people
  • austerity
  • debt
  • economic crisis


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