Education and Financial Vulnerability Across the Adult Life Course During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Awarded Scholars:
April Sutton, University of California, San Diego
Project Date:
Jun 2021
Award Amount:

Cofunded with the JPB Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic downturn exacerbated economic, racial, and gender inequalities in many life domains. Inequalities in financial security by differing levels of education have increased, potentially increasing educational divides in financial vulnerability and resiliency. Education is likely to be associated with the ability to weather and recover from economic volatility. Yet, we know little about how educational experiences beyond educational attainment shape financial security, and less about the role of education during economic shocks. Sociologists Chandra Muller and April Sutton will investigate the effects of education on financial security across different life stages during the COVID-19 crisis. They will first investigate the extent to which education is associated with financial security before and during the pandemic using information about educational experiences and performance (e.g., grades, test scores) independent of educational attainment. Second, they will examine the extent to which the relationship between education and financial security during the pandemic differs by gender, race, and ethnicity. The core data come from the five cohort panel studies of the National Center for Education Statistics Secondary Longitudinal Studies Program (SLSP), and include surveys from high school to early adulthood, including high school and college transcripts. This large, representative sample of high approximately 90,000 school students includes adults who are currently between the ages of 25 and 66, with oversamples for under-represented subgroups. Through funding from the National Institute of Aging and other sources, the SLSP records are being linked to Experian consumer credit data from 2004 through March 2021, well before and during the pandemic. RSF funds would extend the Experian linkage through February 2022. Linking is based on social security numbers, names, addresses and birthdates. The credit bureau data include monthly information on assets, income, debt, and credit scores, along with demographic information for each sample member and each adult household member residing with the sample member.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.