Accounting for Credit

Frederick F. Wherry, Parijat Chakrabarti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This article examines differing accounts of how and why consumers use credit as well as the consequences of credit for inequality and social solidarity. We articulate these explanations as (a) political economy, (b) racialized, (c) relational, and (d) ranked accounts. The first account looks to the political economy to understand what drives credit use and its consequences. In the second, access to credit and the terms of access depend on the formal and informal rules that support a hierarchy of groups ostensibly based on racial categorization. In the third, the consumer makes decisions about how to use credit as a consequence of how she is managing the different types of relationships implicated in its use. The final account focuses on consumer credit ratings as a categorization process that consumers and businesses use when ranking individuals and when assessing the bases for solidarity; the ratings themselves shape future individual and group behaviors as well as life chances. We conclude by identifying future directions for research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • consumption
  • credit
  • debt collection
  • household finances
  • race and racialization
  • relational accounting


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