Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Camille Z. Charles


This dissertation investigates the financial well-being of college educated millennials. A four-year college degree has long been considered the great equalizer, helping young people achieve middle class status despite their own family background. However, there remain troubling racial, class, and gender disparities among millennials, a group of young people who entered the labor market just as the Great Recession of 2008 hit. The Great Recession is often understood as the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Because of this, this dissertation assesses college educated millennials’ financial well-being by focusing on three outcomes of interest: student debt, earnings, and financial stress. Debt is particularly harmful to Black millennials. This poses an additional burden on a group that has historically lacked wealth. This makes it increasingly difficult for college educated Black millennials to achieve financial well-being after college. Students from middle income households also struggle with debt more than either their wealthier or disadvantaged peers. Though a college degree helps many secure better paying employment, Latina/os tend to get paid less than their White counterparts, even after holding constant a number of background, academic, and employment characteristics. Likewise, mothers continue to suffer a penalty since they earn less than their male, childfree peers. Lastly, mothers are also more likely to experience greater levels of financial stress. These findings provide urgent implications for policymakers in order to improve equity through more generous financial aid packages, active efforts to pay mothers and Latina/os equally on the part of employers, and robust parental leave and support programs, like many of the US’ industrialized peers already enjoy. Together this dissertation shows both the advantages and shortcomings college educated millennials experience several years after obtaining their degree.