Predatory inclusion and education debt: Rethinking the racial wealth gap

Louise Seamster, Raphaël Charron-Chénier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Analyses of the recent surge in racial wealth inequality have tended to focus on changes in asset holdings. Debt patterns, by contrast, have remained relatively unexplored. Using 2001 to 2013 data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, we show that after peaking in 2007, racial inequalities for most debt types returned to prefinancial crisis levels. The exception has been educational debt-on which we focus in this article. Our analyses show that educational debt has increased substantially for blacks relative to whites in the past decade. Notably, this unequal growth is not attributable to differences in educational attainment across racial groups. Rather, and as we argue, this trend reflects a process of predatory inclusion-a process wherein lenders and financial actors offer needed services to black households but on exploitative terms that limit or eliminate their long-term benefits. Predatory inclusion, we propose, is one of the mechanisms behind the persistence of racial inequality in contemporary markets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-207
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Currents
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Household debt
  • Predatory inclusion
  • Race
  • Student debt
  • Wealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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