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 […]

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.

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 […]

Medicaid expansion in Missouri – Needed now more than ever

On May 26, Governor Mike Parson announced the Medicaid Expansion Amendment would be moved up to the August 4, 2020 primary ballot. Despite the governor’s explanation of creating more time to budget the expansion, the move to an election with historically low voter turnout threatens the passage of the bill at a time when Medicaid […]

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.

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.

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 […]

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.

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 […]

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 […]

Tracking COVID-19 cases by zip code highlights inequity in St. Louis region

St. Louis on the Air, Sarah Fenske spoke with Washington University’s Dr. Laurie Punch and Michal Grinstein-Weiss, the director of Washington University’s Social Policy Institute and of the Centene Center for Health Transformation. Grinstein-Weiss recently looked into COVID-19 case counts in ZIP codes across the St. Louis region.

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.

United Way extends a financial life raft to employees who need it

United Way is offering TrueConnect, an employee financial wellness program, through a partnership with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis. It is available to for-profit and nonprofit employers with 100 or more employees.

Research Wire

Bufe, S., Roll, S. P., Kondratjeva, O., Hardy, B., & Grinstein-Weiss, M. (2019). Does Savings Affect Participation in the Gig Economy? Evidence from a Tax Refund Field Experiment (SPI Working Paper 19-1). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Social Policy Institute.

Child Development Accounts in Israel

Child Development Accounts (CDAs) are savings or investment accounts opened for children at birth or at early ages with the goal to promote savings and asset accumulation for long-term development (e.g., education, homeownership, or business development). Beginning in January of 2017, the Israeli government established a universal CDA program called Saving for Every Child Program […]

The Workplace Financial Wellness Program Blog Series with Prosperity Now

Efforts to build financial wellness at work, like offering financial services as workplace benefits, are intended to help employees feel better about their financial lives and may be linked to improved productivity and increased employee engagement. To learn about the benefits of financial wellness programs, what types to offer and how to evaluate them, explore this series prepared by Prosperity Now and the Workforce Financial Stability Initiative (WFSI) at Washington University in St. Louis. WFSI is funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Future of Workplace Wellness: Improving the Benefits of Benefits

When asked how employers could help improve their financial lives, connecting them to information and advice was just one idea offered by interviewees. Higher wages and benefits that subsidized or reduced typical expenses were much stronger recommendations, suggesting that employees might find it easier to see valuable solutions in those domains.

How to Collect and Use Data to Improve Workplace Financial Wellness

o Without knowing what the financial lives of your employees look like, it’s hard to know how to improve their financial wellness. Before asking what your employees need, it’s best to ask, “What are the financial realities our employees face?” Answering this question up front will not only help with program selection, it can pay dividends after program implementation to help measure progress.

High-Touch Servicing: How to Invest in Employees’ Financial Futures

To comprehensively address employee financial wellness, employers should include a mix of “high-touch” and “low-touch” financial programs. Higher-touch programs, like financial coaching and counseling, are better positioned to support financial stability over a sustained period of time and can be tailored to meet the situations of those most vulnerable to financial insecurity.

Low-Touch Servicing: Helping Employees in a Financial Pinch

Unfortunately, not having enough money to cover unforeseen expenses or experiencing a loss of income is common for many families living paycheck-to-paycheck, who risk missing important payments like rent. But, employers can help by offering low-touch interventions like wage advances or small-dollar loans.

The Untapped Potential of Workplace Financial Wellness Programs

When employers learn more about what employees experience and prefer, they also need to consider offering a mix of programs. Considering different types of content is important, but so is crafting a mix of “high-touch” and “low-touch” programs that offer direct, immediate resources as well as support for achieving longer-term goals.