Stalling at the starting line: First-generation college students’ debt, economic stressors, and delayed life milestones in professional psychology

Wilcox et al. / Training and Education in Professional Psychology / July 2021

UNC graduates

Economic precarity is a serious concern in psychology education and training and is experienced to a greater degree by the students of color and students from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. The present study examined differences in economic precarity and likelihood of delaying life milestones in a sample of first-generation (n = 74) and continuing-generation (n = 249) doctoral students and graduates in psychology. Results demonstrated that first-generation students reported greater credit-related stress, personal and professional financial stressors related to graduate school, and a greater likelihood of delaying life milestones than their continuing-generation peers, after controlling for SES. In addition, credit-related stress and graduate school financial stressors were related to delaying life milestones. No significant differences between first-generation and continuing-generation students were observed in student loan borrowing, general stress, or financial distress. Findings highlight the unique economic precarity of first-generation students in professional psychology and demonstrate the importance of disentangling SES and first-generation status in this population.