Debt graffiti at the LX Factory, Lisbon. Photo by Erin B. Taylor

Understanding why households become over-indebted is a crucial step to planning interventions at the level of the consumer or through policy, but it is not a straightforward task. While it is tempting to focus on “over-indebtedness,” there are vastly different schools of thought as to how to define what that means, why people become take on unsustainable debt, and what can be done about it.

Moreover, the problem of unsustainable household debt is not limited to the world’s wealthiest countries. Globally, consumer debt inhibits the ability of households to meet their basic needs, and interest charges make it increasingly difficult to meet repayments. It can seem to permeate every aspect of one’s life and prevent households from recovering economically.

Debt also has a macroeconomic impact: when a society’s level of household debt is high, consumer spending is lower, and therefore so is economic growth.

What is really needed are different ways of thinking about debt. In this post we take on debt, metaphorically speaking, with a view to moving the conversation forward. Reviewing cross-cultural evidence collected using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods can assist us to view the problem of debt from different perspectives and help us to design better policy and practices for fair lending, financial education, and the problem of over-indebtedness.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 on the IMTFI Blog


A view of Lisbon. Photo by Erin B. Taylor.

After nearly three years living in Lisbon, Gawain and I have racked up a pretty good knowledge of its sights, museums, eating places, and drinking dwellings. In fact, there is so much to see within day trip distance of the city, we’re very glad that we live here and are not just visiting! Our guests are always astonished by what Lisbon has to offer and swear they are going to pack up and move here.

The following is a guide to our favourite places in Lisbon and nearby towns. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Anthropology for economists

by Erin B Taylor March 14, 2015
Liquidated: An ethnography of Wall Street by Karen Ho

Do economists read anthropology? Certainly David Graeber’s and Gillian Tett’s books have gained traction. Graeber’s “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” ranks at #19 in Amazon’s economic theory books and has even spawned a companion guide to explain the book’s main points. Tett’s Fool’s Gold discussed the causes of the global financial crisis and was reviewed in places […]

Read the full article →

Consumers, users, clients, subjects: Towards people-centric collaborations

by Erin B Taylor February 18, 2015
Taking the money to the Bank$y. Photo by John Guano.

People working in consumer finance who want to share perspectives across different sectors and disciplines face a communication problem: finding a shared language to talk about people and trying to understand their lives. The bad news is that “thought silos” persist and block possibilities for valuable collaborations. The good news is that a great deal […]

Read the full article →

Launching new project on global consumer finance research

by Erin B Taylor December 8, 2014
Thumbnail image for Launching new project on global consumer finance research

Gawain Lynch and I are happy to announce that we have just begun a new project with the IMTFI on global research in consumer finance. Over the next eight months we will be surveying research in consumer finance globally to understand how changes in consumer finance globally are affecting consumers, and how researchers are adapting […]

Read the full article →

Mobilizing concepts across disciplines: An economic analysis

by Erin B Taylor December 8, 2014
Boats being loaded with goods in Anse-à-Pitres before they sail to Marigot. Photo by Erin B. Taylor

There are many lenses through which we can think about mobility. There is no one correct lens to use; in fact, adopting different lenses at different moments can help us spot things that we may have otherwise missed. Many anthropologists do fieldwork in places where we are strangers. One one of the major advantages of […]

Read the full article →

Free compilation of popular anthropology

by Erin B Taylor November 24, 2014
Showcasing Popular Anthropology cover. Art by Tyler Spangler

Want to read popular anthropology but don’t know where to start? A few of us fans got together and compiled a booklet of short articles by anthropologists from around the world. Showcasing Popular Anthropology includes contributions from Sarah Kenzidor, Joris Luyendijk, Keith Hart, Dori Tunstall, Susan Blum, Helen Fisher, Vito Laterza, Olimide Abimbola, Agustín Fuentes, […]

Read the full article →

New PopAnth launched!

by Erin B Taylor November 19, 2014
The newly renovated PopAnth, 17 November 2014

On behalf of PopAnth’s editorial team, I am pleased to announce that today we launched a new version of PopAnth – Hot Buttered Humanity! The new version is cleaner, prettier, and completely mobile device compatible. Overall, though, we’ve retained the look, feel and features of the original site. Gawain Lynch worked on the design with […]

Read the full article →

Safety in numbers: Squatting as social and financial security

by Erin B Taylor October 23, 2014
La Ciénaga, one of the poorest of Santo Domingo’s barrios. Photo by Erin B. Taylor.

Squatter settlements around the world are not generally considered to bestow financial or social security upon the people who live in them. Rather, they tend to be portrayed in two ways. First, they are often described as places that trap people in poverty. The rationale is that lack of access to capital – economic, social, […]

Read the full article →

30% off Materializing Poverty

by Erin B Taylor September 26, 2014

Rollup, rollup! AltaMira have just sent me discount flyers for my book. If you were considering buying it but were holding off because of the price, now’s the time to make your move. There’s a USA flyer and an international flyer for people living everywhere else. Materializing Poverty discount flyer – international Materializing Poverty discount […]

Read the full article →