Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


Reader 1

Sean Flynn

Reader 2

Lahnna Catalino

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This paper proposes a novel exploration of debt factors that are predicted to explain and shape wellbeing. The Danes have been consistently ranked as some of the happiest people in the world, even though Danish households hold the most debt as a fraction of disposable income out of all OECD countries. Americans rank lower on happiness, but they have less debt. At the surface level, debt should lower wellbeing due to the financial strain it can induce. Comfort level with debt is proposed to be a mediating variable for the relationship between country of residence and wellbeing. Type of debt is suggested to be a moderating variable for the relationship between amount of debt and wellbeing. The proposed method is that 2479 participants, each from Denmark and the United States (total 4958), take an online survey that measures the following variables: (1) country of residence, (2) wellbeing, (3) debt amount and debt composition, and (4) comfort level with debt. Key findings would include: (a) residents of Denmark experience higher wellbeing than residents of the United States because Danish residents are more likely to be more comfortable with their existing debt level, and (b) individuals who take on more non-mortgage debt have lower wellbeing, while individuals who take on more mortgage debt have higher wellbeing. The proposed study would shed light onto how debt comfortability may explain wellbeing differences across Denmark and the United States, and how debt type may impact wellbeing. The role of wealth distribution will also be discussed.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.