Press Release

Award-Winning Economist, Panel to Discuss Cultural Impact of Debt


WHAT: Debt and the American Dream: an interactive panel discussion

WHEN: Tuesday, May 26, 2015. Free. Register at

WHERE: James Tyree Auditorium, Mesirow Financial, 353 N. Clark St., Chicago

WHO: Sponsors: Illinois Humanities; John A. Wing Society

Panelists: Amir Sufi (University of Chicago Booth School of Business)

Terrence Young (Urban Partnership Bank)

                        Annie McClanahan (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

                        Anna Kornbluh (University of Illinois at Chicago)

CHICAGO— In the seven years before the Great Recession, American household debt doubled to $14 trillion. Amir Sufi, co-author of the award-winning House of Debt, says that’s no coincidence.

The numbers demonstrate the magnitude of the recession’s impact on American life.  But literary scholar Annie McClanahan says that we can also learn about debt from some less expected sources – like horror movies.

On Tuesday, May 26, Sufi and McClanahan, along with Terrence Young, Director of Commercial Banking at Urban Partnership Bank, will speak on a panel addressing the ways that debt has shaped the American middle class economically and culturally.

Some things they’ll discuss:

  • How have debt, lending and financial institutions shaped the economic and cultural life of the American middle class throughout our history?
  • How has the financial crisis changed the way we think about national identity? How has it influenced popular culture?
  • What is the role of the financial sector in driving prosperity after the Great Recession?

In the past several years, debt and lending have become a topic of national conversation like never before. During the financial crisis of 2009, subprime mortgages and home foreclosures dominated the headlines. This March, President Obama signed a “Student Aid Bill of Rights” designed to protect borrowers: “higher education is, more than ever, the surest ticket to the middle class,” said the President.

Speakers include Amir Sufi, Chicago Board of Trade Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago and co-author of House of Debt, Terrence Young, Director of Commercial Banking at Chicago’s Urban Partnership Bank, and Annie McClanahan, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The conversation will be moderated by Anna Kornbluh, Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Debt and the American Dream will take place on Tuesday, May 26th at 6:30pm in Mesirow Financial’s James Tyree Auditorium (353 N. Clark St.) in Chicago, Illinois.  The event is free and open to the public, though registration is required.  To register, visit or email  For more information, please contact Simon Nyi, Program Manager for Media and Journalism at the Illinois Humanities Council, at 312.422.5586 or

About Illinois Humanities

Illinois Humanities is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with a mission to strengthen society by fueling inquiry and conversation about the ideas and works that shape our culture. Illinois Humanities engages communities across Illinois in conversation in a variety of humanities programs that focus on Public Policy, Media & Journalism, Business, and Art. Illinois Humanities lowers barriers to participation and offers access to programs, events, and grants to all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.

About the John A. Wing Society

The John A. “Jack” Wing Society was created to honor Jack’s vision and legacy as a business leader who engaged deeply in the humanities. Support from the Society enables the IHC to produce programs focusing on the intersection of the humanities and business. The IHC partners with business, civic leaders and academics to create programs that elevate the level of civic conversation around the place of business in public life.