Household Debt and Children’s Risk of Food Insecurity

Source: Mackenzie Brewer, Social Problems, Advance Articles, August 8, 2019
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From the abstract:
In the United States, almost one in six households with children cannot access adequate food for a healthy and active lifestyle. Although food insecurity disproportionately affects lower-income households, it remains unclear why some lower-income families are more vulnerable to food insecurity than others. Household unsecured debt, such as debt incurred from credit cards and medical bills, may be an unexplored financial constraint associated with food insecurity. Using data from the 2014 Child Development Supplement (CDS) of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), I assess whether unsecured debt, by amount and type of debt, is associated with food insecurity among lower-income households with children (N=1,319). Results indicate that medical debt increases odds of household food insecurity even after accounting for key sociodemographic and economic risk factors, while no relationship exists between other forms of unsecured debt and food insecurity. Moreover, although liquid assets decrease the risk of household food insecurity and attenuate the harmful effects associated with unpaid medical bills, few households have enough liquid assets to mitigate the risks associated with medical debt. Efforts to prevent medical debt may be essential for eliminating food insecurity among lower-income households with children.