Personal Risk Factors in the Social Genesis of the Over-Indebtedness of Private Households
Researcher Frank Schulz Nieswandt, Detlef Buschfeld, Michael Wagner
Project Description Over-indebtedness of private households is an enduring social policy problem of modern society. Due to a survey by Korzcak (2004), analyses of this problem have now been made subject of the second poverty and wealth report of the German government (BMGS 2005). The recent survey of the Schufa (Schuldenkompass) also sheds light on this issue (Schufa Holding 2005). What do we know about the processes generating private over-indebtedness? Can typical biographical pathways into indebtedness be identified? Are there specific social and personal risk factors which influence the probability of over-indebtedness? Do family biographies exhibit cross-generational processes of cultural risk transmission (see on this issue Schulz-Nieswandt & Kurscheid 2005)? And which conclusions can be drawn concerning prevention? Which forms of intervention are discussed by life-course and resource-oriented social policy?

In order to implement adequate action in debt prevention through responsible bodies, it will take valid information beyond common preventive measures. However, the necessary personality-related information is not available at present. This is particularly due to the fact that most of the existing research rather focuses on self-inflicted distress than on the different social types, as, for example, the "decent debtor". Therefore a project on this subject which is in preparation has been proposed to the DFG.

In the meantime, a project supported by the Schufa Holding AG focuses on another scarcely analyzed domain, the credit procurement fraud. The characterisation of victim and contravener has to result in preventive measures in order to protect the victim. However, the research on the motives as well as the study of the role and behaviour of the victims has not yet arrived at a level which would allow for the development of sustainable and preventive changes of behaviour.

These phenomena are to be analyzed multidimensionally, combining competition policy as well as sociological and social policy aspects. Therefore, both market activities of information services and regulatory policy are analyzed empirically.
  • Investigation of non-Schufa credits with consideration of the special circumstances of the individual consumers.
  • Investigation of the proceedings and market activities of other information services.
  • A regulatory analysis of the business model of Schufa with special consideration of image- and external effects.

Funding In order to file an application for third-party-funds, the Zentrum für empirische Sozial- und Wirtschaftsforschung provided initial funding. The project is now financially supported by the Schufa Holding AG (Schutzgemeinschaft für allgemeine Kreditsicherung).
Data Data collection is based on qualitative research (interviews with victims and experts). The target groups are indebted persons, advisory services for indebted persons as well as officials of the criminal investigation department (Kriminalpolizei), banks and credit institutions. All types of publications, including national daily newspapers and the world wide web.
  • Analysis of qualitative data
  • Expert discussions
  • Media analysis
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