While some see credit card debt as a sign of irresponsibility or foolishness, a new report from the think tank Demos shows that this is an unfair assessment of people who routinely carry over credit card balances from one month to the next.

After conducting a careful study, Demos researchers found that there was “little evidence that households with credit card debt are less responsible in their spending habits than households that do not have accumulated debt.”

Instead, outside factors such as education, medical insurance and unemployment appeared to heavily influence the likelihood of carrying over credit card debt each month.

For example, the researchers found that people with a college degree were 22 percent less likely to have credit card debt than those without a college education. What this could mean is that people without a college education earn less and are more likely to depend on credit cards to meet their basic needs.

Additionally, those without medical insurance also appeared to be more likely to have credit card debt. The simple explanation for this is that people without medical insurance must rely on their credit cards to pay for expensive medical treatments and it becomes nearly impossible to pay off the charges.

Unemployment also appeared to influence the likelihood of carrying credit card debt. Households with at least one family member unemployed for at least two months in the past three years were 14 percent more likely to have credit card debt.

It’s no secret that individuals often turn to credit cards to meet their basic needs during times of financial struggle such as during unemployment. It can be very difficult to pay off these debts even after the individual has been re-employed.

As you can see, there are many factors that can lead an honest, hardworking family to take on more credit card debt than they can handle. These families sometimes turn to bankruptcy to deal with their debt and get a fresh start financially.

Source: Fox Business, “Credit Card Debt Not a Sign of Irresponsibility,” Peter Andrew, July 9, 2014