How will we pay? Projective fictions and regimes of foresight in US college finance

Caitlin Zaloom

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    For most American households today, a college education requires financial planning. Planning can seem like a reckoning with “real” economic constraints of household budgetary truths; however, financial planning begins with imaginative acts. To plan, families must craft “projective fictions,” forecasts of trends in the broader economy and family life with which they can guide parenting actions in the present. Drawing on inspiration from ethnographic interviews with more than 160 middle-class college students and their families, this essay examines government policy and financial industry agendas that have linked planning practices with familial virtue. A contrast between two “regimes of foresight” and their moralities—the mid-century US policies’ regime of “near-term prudence” and the contemporary regime of “distant modeling”—exposes the work “real economy” accomplishes: the policies and instruments of planning produce and distribute virtue as much as financial outcomes.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)239-251
    Number of pages13
    JournalHAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory
    Issue number1-2
    StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


    • College
    • Finance
    • Middle class
    • Moral economy
    • Planning
    • Policy
    • United States

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anthropology


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