Individuals unable to meet their financial commitments have to fight serious deficits under varying institutional conditions, including legal statutes, creditor practices and existing – or non-existing – social security nets. This chapter discusses over-indebtedness as a measure of low socio-economic status (SES) and poverty, before analysing mechanisms linking over-indebtedness and its consequences. The first mechanism is attached to economic constraints caused by over-indebtedness, while the second is connected to the stigma of over-indebtedness. The social stigma concerning indebtedness and debt problems can be analysed, firstly, as an internalized psychological condition relating to the incidence of over-indebtedness and, secondly as a feeling relating to other people’s reactions to an over-indebted person. Both low SES and social stigma are analysed from individual and structural perspective research results and examples from six countries.
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