7 Tips to Mitigate Hoarding Behavior

Mary Acri has seven tips to manage feelings of powerlessness, helplessness and fear without stockpiling toilet paper as the pandemic persists.

A different dialogue: Lifting up community voices

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By: Sarah Cowart, communications manager for Social Policy Institute; Pamela Chan, associate director for Social Policy Institute, and Daniel Barker, director of research and knowledge, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth If you attended “Building an Inclusive Economy” on October 7 with the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis (SPI) and Mastercard Center […]

SPI introduces new program with Brown School for students interested in data and statistics

Data and statistics are foundational to policy research and practice. As Social Policy Institute continues to grow, developing opportunities for people to increase knowledge and skills in these areas is a focus of our organization. One example of how we are doing this is a new opportunity led by the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and Social Policy Institute: Data and Statistics for Policy Practice.

Can pre-commitment increase savings deposits? Evidence from a tax-time field experiment

This experiment tested combinations of behavioral strategies to promote savings including (1) asking filers at the start of tax preparation to pre-commit to saving their refund, and (2) choice architecture manipulations that emphasized directly depositing their refund into savings accounts or savings bond purchases.

Emergency savings are a potential lifeline for households in financial distress due to COVID-19

Many U.S. households have lost a job and/or income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These types of losses can influence an individual’s level of life satisfaction and thus, their overall health and well-being. One possible strategy to mitigate the impacts of economic volatility for U.S. individuals and households is to build a rainy-day fund. A […]

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, […]

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.

Safe, affordable child care is a right, not a privilege

As the United States nears the seventh month of weathering COVID-19’s impact, it has become clear that the economy will not recover simply by encouraging businesses to re-open or consumers to keep shopping. Working adults with children are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and will continue to struggle without stronger federal and state support for child care.

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.

Gig work can be a lifeline, but it may be disappearing for those that need it

When you think of gig work—types of work where online apps and platforms allow workers to get paid for a range of services including ride-sharing, home repairs, art sales, and property rental—you might imagine a flexible job that enables anyone to earn income. If you have a reliable car and a smartphone, you can download […]

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.

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.

Messaging matters when it comes to COVID-19 economic impact payments

The way policymakers and financial capability practitioners communicate about the CARES economic impact payments and other current or future payments may help guide households to use these benefits in the way best suited to their financial situation. This is important because while some households may use the CARES payments to pay down debt and other households may be fortunate enough to be able to save their payments, others will need these payments to simply make ends meet.

Improving Educational and Career Opportunities for Youth with Disabilities in the Future Trend Program

This research brief is part of a series by the Social Impact Nudgeathon initiative. This initiative incorporated insights from behavioral economics into the design and delivery of social welfare programs. Developed through a partnership between the Joint Distribution Committee in Israel (JDC-Israel) and the Social Policy Institute (SPI) at Washington University in St. Louis, this initiative is among the first of its kind to launch in Israel. […]

Improving the Take-Up of Homecare Services Among Holocaust Survivors in a Jewish Charitable Organization

This research brief is part of a series by the Social Impact Nudgeathon initiative. This initiative incorporated insights from behavioral economics into the design and delivery of social welfare programs. Developed through a partnership between the Joint Distribution Committee in Israel (JDC-Israel) and the Social Policy Institute (SPI) at Washington University in St. Louis, this initiative is among the first of its kind to launch in Israel. […]

Household Savings Decisions in Israel’s Child Savings Program: The Role of Demographic, Financial, and Intrinsic Factors

Israel’s Child Development Account (CDA) program, the Savings for Every Child Program (SECP), is universal and automatically enrolls all children under the age of 18, depositing approximately $14 into their accounts every month. Parents can transfer an additional monthly $14 into these long-term savings accounts and can choose an investment vehicle for their children’s deposits. […]

Assessing the Short-Term Stability of Financial Well-Being in Low- and Moderate-Income Households

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 […]

Does Savings Affect Participation in the Gig Economy? Evidence from a Tax Refund Field Experiment

This paper investigates how saving the federal tax refund affects gig economy participation for low-income online tax filers in the six months following tax filing. Using longitudinal survey and administrative data, we leverage random assignment in a unique refund savings experiment as an instrument for refund savings. We find significant heterogeneity in estimated effects that are consistent […]

Nothing to Show for It: Non-Degreed Debt and the Financial Circumstances Associated with It

The number of individuals with student loan debt who do not earn their degrees is on the rise; nevertheless, there is little research that demonstrates the financial conditions and circumstances of these individuals. We address this knowledge gap by comparing the financial outcomes of student debt-holders who started college but did not earn a degree—those […]

We don’t need a map to tell us who COVID-19 hits the hardest in St. Louis

We don’t need a map to tell us that policymakers, health officials, corporations, and St. Louis residents themselves must continue to break down economic barriers to create partnerships and solutions that support the most vulnerable in our city – those who were already facing a disproportionate social, financial, and health burden prior to COVID-19 entering their lives.

What tax refunds tell us about how households might use economic impact payments

While economic impact payments are different than a tax refund, we can be fairly confident, based on this research, that in this moment of emergency, payments from CARES Act will be used on essential purchases. It is also possible households will allocate their economic impact payments to clear debt entirely or to make a minimum payment in order to keep some liquid assets in checking or savings.

How Do the Lives of Participants in a Housing Mobility Program Change after They Move? A Case Study of the Mobility Connection Program

This brief outlines the results of an assessment of Mobility Connection, a housing mobility program in St. Louis, Missouri. Mobility Connection is administered through Ascend STL and this assessment was conducted in partnership with the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis. Our research focused on answering the following questions: How do Mobility […]

Veering off track in U.S. high schools? Redirecting student trajectories by disrupting punishment and math course-taking tracks

Students in punishment “tracks” are rarely in advanced course-taking “tracks” in high school. Yet, there is little research that demonstrates the relationships between punishment and advanced course-taking, nor research that demonstrates how punishment and advanced course-taking together can impact long-term student trajectories. Using multi-level modeling with a national longitudinal study of high school students, we observed reciprocal disruptions. Advanced […]

The Collateral Damage of In-School Suspensions: A Counterfactual Analysis of High-Suspension Schools, Math Achievement and College Attendance

Even the least severe forms of exclusionary discipline are associated with detrimental effects for students that attend schools that overuse them. With a nationally representative longitudinal study of high school students, we utilize propensity score weighting to limit selection bias associated with schools that issue high numbers of in-school suspensions. Accounting for school social order […]

Financially Stressed Families Save More with Medicaid, Study Shows

As the gig economy plays an increasingly important role in the labor market, there is a need to understand the economic factors that influence participation in this sector. In this paper, we investigate how saving the federal tax refund affects gig economy participation for low-income online tax filers in the six months following tax filing. […]

Disparate Impacts: Balancing the Need for Safe Schools With Racial Equity in Discipline

Policy responses to gun violence within K-12 school systems have not stopped the increasing frequency of their occurrence, but have instead increased racial and ethnic disparities in multiple forms of discipline. The crisis prevention policies that follow school shootings tend to exacerbate racial and ethnic discipline disparities (a) within schools as practitioners enact policies with […]

Credit-building services for employees: An assessment of engagement and outcomes

This is one research brief in a series of five completed through the Employee Financial Wellness Programs Project. In this study, we examine administrative data for national nonprofit Working Credit’s employee benefit, which combines credit building education, one-on-one counseling, and access to financial products to help workers establish good credit. Working Credit offers credit-building services […]

Workplace credit-building counseling at a Midwest employer: An assessment of take-up, engagement, and outcomes

This is one research brief in a series of five completed through the Employee Financial Wellness Programs Project. In this study, we focus on a workplace credit-building counseling program. This service is offered by a non-profit service provider that combines credit-building education, one-on-one counseling, and access to financial products to help low-income workers establish good […]

Financial counseling for low- and moderate-income home health care employees: An assessment of take-up, engagement, and outcomes

This is one research brief in a series of five completed through the Employee Financial Wellness Programs Project. In this study, we analyze administrative data and interviews regarding Trusted Advisor, a workplace financial wellness benefit offering one-on-one counseling linked to vetted financial tools. The purpose of this study was to examine take-up, engagement, and financial […]

Employer-sponsored small-dollar loans: An assessment of take-up, engagement, and outcomes

This is one research brief in a series of five completed through the Employee Financial Wellness Programs Project. In this study, we focus on an employer-sponsored small-dollar loan (ESSDL) product, TrueConnect loans, aimed at providing employees an affordable credit alternative to payday, auto title, and other high-cost loans. We present and discuss results of our […]

Financial counseling for low- and moderate-income employees: An assessment of engagement and outcomes

This is one research brief in a series of five completed through the Employee Financial Wellness Programs Project supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this study, we focus on the results of analyses of administrative data for Trusted Advisor, a workplace financial wellness benefit offering one-on-one counseling linked to vetted financial tools. This service […]

Financial wellness programs in the workplace: Employer motivations and experiences

Employee financial wellness programs (EFWPs) are a benefit innovation that promise to address the financial challenges of employees while also benefiting employers. Results from a mixed-methods study of employers suggest early adopters appear to be motivated primarily by a desire to help employees. EFWP success may depend on promotion by organizational champions. Programs that accommodate […]

The Saving for Every Child Program in Israel: an overview of a universal asset-building policy

In 2017, the Israeli government implemented a universal child development account programme – the Saving for Every Child Program (SECP) – which establishes a personal savings account for every Israeli child and provides monthly deposits until the child turns 18. The SECP has the potential to provide substantial assets when children reach adulthood, but the […]

Enrollment and participation in a universal child savings program: Evidence from the rollout of Israel’s National Program

Child Development Accounts (CDAs) are savings or investment accounts typically opened at birth or during a child’s early years with the aim of promoting savings and asset accumulation for child development purposes, such as post-secondary education or homeownership. Beginning in January of 2017, the Israeli government established a universal CDA program called the Saving for […]