Hardship is greatest among vulnerable Israelis already struggling financially

By: Olga Kondratjeva, data analyst III, Social Policy Institute; Michal Grinstein-Weiss, director, Social Policy Institute; Talia Schwartz-Tayri, researcher, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; John Gal, professor, The Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; senior researcher, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel; & Stephen Roll, […]

Research found 16% of job loss or layoffs reported payment difficulties

The story below is a translation from an article printed in Hebrew in Israel Today, the largest newspaper in Israel, on Oct. 5, 2020. A new study published here for the first time examined the effect of the first lockdown on households using 2,300 Israelis from June 4 to early July. The data show that […]

The world will no longer belong to the young: 18 – 39-year-olds were financially affected the worst from the Coronavirus

This story was written by Tali Heruti-Sover and originally published on Oct. 1, 2020 in The Marker in Israel. According to a study conducted by Prof. Michal Grinstein-Weiss at the beginning of the crisis, young people, generations Y and Z, suffer from high unemployment, have difficulty providing basic needs for themselves and their debts are large

Employee financial wellness programs: Opportunities to promote financial inclusion?

Findings suggest that these services are reaching a population that experiences financial exclusion, though evidence is mixed concerning how these services help workers with LMI resolve key financial challenges. Community collaboration focused on employee financial wellness presents opportunities to advocate for higher wages and better benefits.

Employee financial wellness programs: Promising new benefit for frontline workers?

Availability of different EFWP benefits ranged from 11 to 15% and over a third of workers were unaware of whether their employer offered an EFWP. Experiencing financial difficulties predicted both EFWP awareness and use suggesting that employers should take time to assess employees’ specific financial challenges to select benefits. Yet, use of EFWPs by LMI workers may suggest the need for better compensation and work conditions.

Challenges and Opportunities in Developing Child Savings Programs in Israel and Uganda: Oct. 15

From 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (CT) on Oct. 15, join the Social Policy Institute (SPI), the International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD), and the Next Age Institute (NAI) for a discussion about asset building for long-term child development and CSA programs—with the particular focus on CSAs in Israel and Uganda, which differ greatly in their structure.

Lee twice recognized as leader in field

Hedwig Lee, professor of sociology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and faculty affiliate for Social Policy Institute, was elected to the prestigious Sociological Research Association. The highly selective honor society elects up to 14 new members each year; the sole criterion for selection is excellence in research.

Building an Inclusive Economy: Oct. 7

This event has passed. Watch a recording or see below. Historically, as the St Louis economy grows, benefits are not equally, nor equitably, distributed. As we look to rebuilding our economy from COVID-19 devastation, now is the time to consider how St. Louis can change to become a model for a truly inclusive economy that […]

Apply Now for the 2020-2021 Graduate Policy Scholar Program

If you are interested in policy, community organizing, advocacy and more, the Graduate Policy Scholar Program is a great match for you! The Graduate Policy Scholar Program is committed to building a community of policy-interested graduate students at Washington University. Over this coming academic year, Scholars-in-Training will supplement their coursework with skill-building and networking experiences designed […]

An immersive course about the design of segregation helps bring change to St. Louis neighborhoods

Why is St. Louis segregated? Some say it is by design. Catalina Freixas, assistant professor of architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) agrees. She and her students study segregation’s design, impact and strategies for mitigation in St. Louis neighborhoods in the course, Segregation by Design.

Michal Grinstein-Weiss and Marla Blow: Masks aren’t the only answer to keeping workers safe

Michal Grinstein-Weiss, director, SPI, and Marla Blow, vice president, Center for Inclusive Growth, co-author an op-ed highlighting the need for better workplace policies to mitigate exposure to COVID-19. “By addressing longstanding inequalities that have undervalued essential workers, these measures would ensure that no one is put in a position of choosing health over a paycheck.”

Covid-19: Time to look at where we are going

SPI research about job loss is featured in this article on BizNews in which Alan Whiteside, OBE, Chair of Global Health Policy, BSIA, Waterloo, Canada & Professor Emeritus, University of KwaZulu-Natal, looks at the long-term impact of COVID-19.

How to Deal With Debt While Unemployed

Stephen Roll, research assistant professor at SPI, was interviewed for a story with OppLoans about debt during unemployment.

Quarantine Envy Got You Down? You’re Not Alone

Some groups may also be better than others at resisting envy. A recent Brookings Institution study showed that African-American and Hispanic people, especially those with low incomes, remained more optimistic than their white counterparts, despite facing physical and economic challenges from the pandemic.

Students Share their Experiences with the Graduate Policy Scholars Program

The Graduate Policy Scholars program provides students from all fields of study with impactful opportunities and training outside of their curriculum. Offered by the Clark-Fox Policy Institute in partnership with the Social Policy Institute, the yearlong program inspires students to pursue their unique interests. Nearly 120 students have completed the GPS program through its first […]

COVID-19 is widening the achievement gap

Parents shouldn’t have to choose between their children’s’ health and their academic success—between surviving and thriving. While the choice to attend school in-person or virtually may ultimately be up to parents in some cases, we should ensure that both options allow for academic success—especially for the most vulnerable learners.

The demographics of racial inequality in the United States

The numbers provided here only scratch the surface of the realities of racial inequality in the United States. As we begin to reimagine policing, dismantle systems of oppression, and reinvest resources into Black communities, we must use these numbers to help guide us.

Strategies for Debt Reduction: Comparing Financial Tips and Financial Counseling

Interest among employers is growing in Employee financial wellness programs (EFWPs), a new type of benefit to address financial stress among employees. EFWPs benefits include financial counseling, small-dollar loans, and savings programs that address employees’ non-retirement financial needs. Little evidence exists concerning the availability and use of and outcomes associated with EFWPs, especially among low- and moderate-income (LMI) workers who may be in greatest need of these benefits. We present findings concerning awareness and use of EFWPs from a national survey of LMI workers (N=16,650). Availability of different EFWP benefits ranged from 11 to 15% and over a third of workers were unaware of whether their employer offered an EFWP. Experiencing financial difficulties predicted both EFWP awareness and use suggesting that employers take time to assess employees’ specific financial challenges to select benefits. Yet use of EFWPs by LMI workers may suggest the need for better compensation and work conditions.

Experts Warn of Potential Housing Crisis When Eviction Moratorium Lifted

In an interview with NBC 6, Michal Grinstein-Weiss discussed the housing crisis and looming evictions. She said, “We are already in a housing crisis in the U.S. and we were in one long before, and housing is really central for our people to recover from COVID-19.”

Pandemic boosts urgency of housing instability

The Columbian features SPI data in a story about housing hardship. “Nationally, a survey of low- to moderate-income households, conducted by the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, found that individuals are facing increased hardships such as evictions, delayed rent or mortgage payments, or unexpected utility payments and home repairs during the pandemic.”

It’s about to get a lot worse

SPI faculty director, Mat Despard, was interviewed in this Axios story about evictions: “We should be very concerned about what’s going to happen in August and beyond.”

Grinstein-Weiss and Ferris receive Washington University’s Outstanding Faculty & Staff Mentor Award

Michal Grinstein-Weiss, director of the Social Policy Institute, and Dan Ferris, director of policy and planning at the Social Policy Institute, were selected out of nearly 100 nominations as recipients of the 2020 Washington University Outstanding Faculty Mentor and Staff Mentor Awards. Awarded by the university’s Graduate Student Senate, students from all of WashU’s schools nominated […]

Event Replay: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Racial, Gender, and Generational Wealth Gaps

Below is a recording of the June 25, 2020 event, The Impact of COVID-19 on the Racial, Gender, and Generational Wealth Gaps, hosted by the Social Policy Institute at Washington University and the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. View Presentation Slides LEARN MORE: The Social Policy Institute […]

Material hardship among lower-income households: the role of liquid assets and place

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides substantial financial support to low-income workers, yet around a quarter of EITC payments are estimated to be erroneous or fraudulent. Beginning in 2017, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 requires the Internal Revenue Service to spend additional time processing early EITC claims, delaying the issuance of tax refunds. Leveraging unique data, we investigate how delayed tax refunds affected the experience of hardship and unsecured debt among EITC recipients. We find that early filers experienced increased food insecurity relative to later filers after the implementation of the refund delay.

Employee Financial Wellness Programs: tips for providers

There are several types of Employee Financial Wellness Programs (EFWPs), such as workplace financial counseling, workplace credit building, and employer-sponsored small dollar loans. Each program benefits the company and its employees in different ways.

The Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, with generous support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, studied the implementation of EFWPs at several diverse organizations, including a nonprofit in the Midwest and several supply chain locations of a national retailer, to understand the impact. As a result, we’ve identified five ways in which providers can maximize the benefits of EFWPs and avoid pitfalls along the way.

Employee Financial Wellness Programs: tips for employers

There are several types of Employee Financial Wellness Programs (EFWPs), such as workplace financial counseling, workplace credit building, and employer-sponsored small dollar loans. Each program benefits the company and its employees in different ways.

The Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, with generous support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, studied the implementation of EFWPs at several diverse organizations, including a nonprofit in the Midwest and several supply chain locations of a national retailer, to understand the impact. As a result, we’ve identified four ways in which organizations can maximize the benefits of EFWPs and avoid pitfalls along the way.

Financial counseling for front-line workers: a pilot study of engagement and outcomes

Although financial counseling has been studied in community-based settings, programs offered in the workplace are understudied and yet may aid low- to moderate income employees in improving their financial situations. This study examines workers’ engagement in and associated credit outcomes from an employer-based financial counseling program in the New York City area. Findings suggest that participants engaged equally in services except for older and non-English speaking workers, who had lower levels of digital engagement. In-person engagement in services was minimal. Credit score improvements were modest, but greater for workers who had

scores in the lowest quartile at baseline. These credit score increases may be due to the reduction of delinquent accounts for workers with the lowest baseline scores.

Employee financial wellness programs: promising new benefit for frontline workers?

Interest among employers is growing in Employee financial wellness programs (EFWPs), a new type of benefit to address financial stress among employees. EFWPs benefits include financial counseling, small-dollar loans, and savings programs that address employees’ non-retirement financial needs. Little evidence exists concerning the availability and use of and outcomes associated with EFWPs, especially among low- and moderate-income (LMI) workers who may be in greatest need of these benefits. We present findings concerning awareness and use of EFWPs from a national survey of LMI workers (N=16,650). Availability of different EFWP benefits ranged from 11 to 15% and over a third of workers were unaware of whether their employer offered an EFWP. Experiencing financial difficulties predicted both EFWP awareness and use suggesting that employers take time to assess employees’ specific financial challenges to select benefits. Yet use of EFWPs by LMI workers may suggest the need for better compensation and work conditions.

Tax-time saving and the earned income tax credit: results from online field and survey experiments

Tax refunds are an opportunity for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) recipients to build emergency savings. Randomly assigned behavioral interventions in 2015 and 2016 have statistically significant impacts on refund saving take-up and amounts among EITC recipients who filed their taxes online. From a survey experiment, we also find that EITC recipients have a 49 percent and 59 percent increased likelihood of deferring 20 percent of their refunds for six months when hypothetically offered 25 and 50 percent savings matches (p < .001), respectively. These findings can inform policy development related to encouraging emergency saving at tax time.

Promoting public retirement savings accounts during tax filing: evidence from a field experiment

Many U.S. households—especially those with low- to moderate-incomes (LMI)—struggle to save for retirement. To address this issue, the Department of the Treasury launched myRA, a no-fee retirement account designed primarily to help people who lacked access to employer-sponsored plans build retirement savings. In this paper, we report findings from two myRA-focused field experiments, both of which were administered to well over 100,000 LMI online tax filers before and during the 2016 tax season. The first experiment involved sending one of three different myRA-focused email messages to tax filers immediately prior to tax season, and the second experiment involved incorporating myRA-focused messages and choice architecture directly into an online tax filing platform. Messages were chosen to address different barriers to retirement savings LMI households may face. We find that, though the general level of interest in myRA was very low in this population, interest and enrollment in myRA depends heavily on the way in which the benefits of the accounts are framed. Results from both experiments indicate that messages emphasizing the possibility of receiving a larger refund in the future were the most effective at increasing interest in myRA, while messages focused around the simplicity and ease of use of the accounts were less effective. We also conduct several subsample analyses to investigate the extent to which these effects differed by key household characteristics.

The impact of tax refund delays on the experience of hardship and unsecured debt

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides substantial financial support to low-income workers, yet around a quarter of EITC payments are estimated to be erroneous or fraudulent. Beginning in 2017, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 requires the Internal Revenue Service to spend additional time processing early EITC claims, delaying the issuance of tax refunds. Leveraging unique data, we investigate how delayed tax refunds affected the experience of hardship and unsecured debt among EITC recipients. We find that early filers experienced increased food insecurity relative to later filers after the implementation of the refund delay.

Using financial tips to guide debt repayment: experimental evidence from low-and moderate-income tax filers

Much of the literature on household finances tends to focus on discrete or relatively objective measures like savings, debt, economic mobility, and there has been a lack of research on holistic measures of financial well-being. This gap is due in part to the absence of a common understanding of how to define and measure financial well-being; a gap that was recently addressed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s development of a financial well-being scale. However, the research on this scale is still scarce and little is known about how financial well-being evolves over time. To that end, this paper uses a two-wave survey of low- and moderate-income tax filers to present the first longitudinal analysis of the CFPB’s financial well-being scale. Using a combination of descriptive analysis, OLS regression, and fixed effects panel regression, we assess (1) the stability of financial well-being over a six-month period; (2) the extent to which household characteristics predict volatility in financial well-being; and (3) the relationship between the experience of adverse financial events, including financial shocks and material hardships, and financial well-being. We find that financial well-being scores are extremely stable over the short-term, and that household characteristics are generally not strong predictors of financial well-being changes. We also find that, while adverse financial events like the loss of a job are significantly associated with declines in financial well-being, these changes are not large. These findings have implications for researchers and practitioners interested in using the financial well-being scale in program and policy evaluations.

Event Replay: Jump-Starting America: How Investing in Technology & Science Revives Economies

The Social Policy Institute at Washington University and the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis invite you to a virtual conversation at 1 p.m. on June 4 with Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson, authors of Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream. Gruber […]

A message from Michal Grinstein-Weiss, director of SPI

Dear Friends, These are dark days in our nation’s history. At a time when we are trying to respond to a global health pandemic and its disproportionate health and economic toll on families of color, we are witnessing endless injustices and brutality against black and brown civilians. It is appalling and astounding. And the similarities […]

Housing Hardships Reach Unprecedented Heights during the COVID-19 Pandemic

SPI research, published on Brookings Institution: Groundbreaking data from a new large-scale, nationally-representative survey of low- and moderate-income (LMI) households administered by the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis in April of 2020 suggests that individuals have been facing increased housing hardship such as evictions, delayed rent or mortgage payments, and unexpected utility payments and home repairs during the pandemic.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Racial, Gender and Generational Wealth Gaps

On June 25, 2020, join the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis and Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to better understand the likely impacts COVID-19 on family wealth, and some possible responses to those gaps.

Jump-Starting America: How Investing in Technology & Science Revives Economies

At 1 p.m. on June 4, 2020, join the Social Policy Institute at Washington University and the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis for a virtual conversation with Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson, authors of Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream.

SPI researchers win top awards for papers at ACCI Conference

Yingying Zeng, Mathieu Despard, and Sophia Fox-Dichter received the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) Paper Award for their paper “Workplace Financial Counseling: Credit Outcomes Among Lower-Paid, Entry-Level Workers”.

Stephen P. Roll, Blair D. Russell, Dana C. Perantie, and Michal Grinstein-Weiss received the JCA Best Article of the Year for their paper “Encouraging Tax‐Time Savings with a Low‐Touch, Large‐Scale Intervention: Evidence from the Refund to Savings Experiment”.