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Monday, February 6, 2006
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Ohio University professor makes national news with insights about high costs of escalating personal debt

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 6, 2006) -- Ohio University Assistant Professor of Sociology Deborah Thorne, Ph.D., sees sociology as a field that can impact individuals in a very practical way. For that reason, Thorne's research focuses on consumer debt and bankruptcy, and her insights have caught the attention of the national media.

The combination of large credit card debt and low minimum payments is a dangerous mix, Thorne said.

"This is a situation with serious and potentially long-lasting implications," Thorne explained. "The average family that carries a balance owes approximately $10,000 in debt on their credit cards. Couple this with the fact that the minimum monthly payment for the last decade has been 2 percent, and the reality is that many families will never pay off their credit card debt."

"In fact, most folks will be dead before the debt is paid off. Unfortunately, if they are married, their spouse will inherit it," Thorne said.

The lure of easy credit is taking its toll on individual consumers and has become a booming industry unto itself.

"People get hooked by easy credit and they pay dearly. In fact, credit cards are the most profitable sector of the lending industry, having passed mortgages years ago," Thorne said.

"The irony is that individuals who do not accumulate debt and avoid credit cards all together find it very difficult to establish a good credit rating," Thorne said. "As contrary as it seems, you have to accrue debt or use credit to demonstrate that you are a good credit risk. So, folks who pay in case, pay off their homes and buy vehicles outright are quite likely to have a very low credit score, which can really end up costing them if they ever do need to borrow money."

Thorne has shared her insights with students as part of an Introduction to Sociology class she teaches as well as a University Professor course that she recently taught on consumerism, credit and debt.

"This type of scholarly pursuit, which ties together a faculty member's expertise with applicable implications for individuals in everyday life is especially beneficial to students and enhances the classroom experience," interim Dean of the Ohio University College of Arts and Sciences Ben Ogles said. Recently, outlets such as ABC World News Tonight, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Orlando Sentinel, U.S. News & World Report, CNN with Lou Dobbs and other national outlets have interviewed Thorne on personal bankruptcy and consumer debt.

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Media Contact: Media Specialist George Mauzy, (740) 597-1794 or mauzy@ohio.edu

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