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Credit Cards and the Receipt of Financial Assistance from Friends and Family


Exchanges of assistance among kin are a common and important source of support for families; however, people are often hesitant to seek such assistance and broader economic contexts influence these exchange relationships. Existing studies overlook the potential role of credit cards in shaping exchanges of assistance among kin, which is surprising given the potential for credit to serve as a substitute for assistance from kin and the potential for credit to shape the economic contexts that influence exchange decisions. Drawing on social exchange theories and data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we find that having a credit card is associated with a decreased likelihood of borrowing money from close social ties and that this relationship is conditional on marital status and income. These findings contribute to understandings of how exchanges of support are shaped by economic contexts and suggest the need for further research on how credit influences exchanges of assistance among family and friends.

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  1. Primary caregivers were interviewed for the 15-year follow-up survey. We exclude the 12% of cases where the primary caregiver was someone other than the mother.

  2. We also conducted stratification analyses to test whether it is appropriate to treat marital status and household income (binned into quartiles) as moderators or if they should instead be viewed solely as confounders. Tarone tests indicate that relationship status and household income may be effect moderators of the association between having a credit card and borrowing money in addition to being potential confounders of this relationship. Thus, our multivariable regression analyses that treat income and marital status as potential moderators through interaction terms are warranted. In addition, because income and marital status can be potential confounders even as they moderate the effect of credit cards on support received, our interaction analysis includes main effects for income and marital status to adjust for the possible confounding effects of those variables.


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Correspondence to Colin Campbell.

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Research Involving Human Participants

The research presented in this manuscript does not constitute human subjects research as defined by federal regulation and does not include research-like activities that require institutional review board approval either by federal regulation or university policy. The data used in this study do not include identifying information that is available to the authors of this study.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the data used in this study.

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Campbell, C., Pugliese, M. Credit Cards and the Receipt of Financial Assistance from Friends and Family. J Fam Econ Iss 43, 153–168 (2022).

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  • Social support
  • Credit
  • Kin support
  • Social exchange theory
  • Fragile families and child wellbeing study