In 2009, Congress passed the CARD Act, aimed at preventing kids under 21 from getting themselves credit cards and then getting themselves into big trouble. It's an intuitively plausible case. After all, we all know someone who did just that -- I went to college with a kid who developed a severe compulsive gambling problem, which was followed by some severe hours working at his family business after his parents cut up his credit cards and made him work off the debt. Almost everyone I've ever talked to about consumer credit has a story like this. So it seemed reasonable to think that keeping college kids away from credit until their brains had matured a little more might prevent some huge disasters.
According to a new study performed by Andra Ghent of Arizona State University and Peter Debbaut and Marianna Kudlyak of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, that's not the case. Folks who got credit young weren't more likely to default; most of them seemed to be building a credit history.