The Impact of Tax Refund Delays on the Experience of Hardship Among Lower-Income Households

Abstract The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides substantial financial support to low-income workers in the USA, 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 […]

Who Protests, What Do They Protest, and Why?

Abstract We examine individuals’ decisions to attend protests during the summer of 2020. Our analysis examines two simultaneous movements: Black Lives Matter along with protests calling for less stringent public health measures to combat the COVID-19 (e.g., for swifter reopening of businesses). Our analysis is made possible by a unique staggered panel data set that […]

All over the Map: A Systematic Literature Review and State Policy Scan of Medicaid Buy-In Programs for Working Individuals with Disabilities

Abstract While supports for people with disabilities have increased, significant healthcare and financial barriers persist. State-administered Medicaid Buy-In programs for working people with disabilities, distinct from broader buy-in discussions that have emerged as some states consider expanding access to health insurance, are intended to incentivize employment and protect against a loss of Long-Term Services and […]

Expanded Child Tax Credit payments have not reduced employment

Approximately 60 million American children living in 35 million households received monthly payments from the federal government as part of the temporary Child Tax Credit (CTC) expansion. Discourse over whether or not the expanded CTC caused parents to leave the workforce emerged during the period of the expanded credit. On one side, a large number […]

The Impact of Tax Refund Delays on the Experience of Hardship Among Lower-Income Households

Abstract The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides substantial financial support to low-income workers in the USA, 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 […]

The Precarity of Self-Employment among Low- and Moderate-Income Households

Abstract Many people in the United States have achieved economic stability through self-employment and are often seen as embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and seizing opportunity. Yet, research also suggests that self-employment may be precarious for many people in the lower socioeconomic strata. Drawing on a unique dataset that combines longitudinal survey data with administrative tax […]

Do Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Savings and Job Loss during COVID-19 Explain Disparities in Housing Hardships? A Moderated Mediation Analysis

Abstract Despite the array of public programs offered to help households mitigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, many still needed to rely on savings, credit, or other assets to make ends meet. This reality may exacerbate existing social and economic inequities because racial and ethnic minorities often have lower access to assets and […]

Crashing without a Parachute: Racial and Educational Disparities in Unemployment during COVID-19

Abstract The burden of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been shouldered equally by American families. Black and Hispanic communities have been hit the hardest, with the pandemic often exacerbating existing disparities. Using nationally representative data, we assess the economic and public health effects of the pandemic among different socioeconomic groups and whether typical sources of […]

Cut me some slack! An exploration of slack resources and technology-mediated human capital investments in entrepreneurship

Purpose In this paper, the authors explore the relationship that slack resources and technology-mediated human capital investments can have on individuals’ entrepreneurial intentions. Focusing on human capital investments that individuals make through education and work, the authors analyze the relationship among formal online learning opportunities, informal skill development in the gig economy and entrepreneurial intentions. […]

How Did School Meal Access Change during the COVID-19 Pandemic? A Two-Step Floating Catchment Area Analysis of a Large Metropolitan Area

SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) resulted in school closures and contingencies across the U.S. that limited access to school meals for students. While some schools attempted to provide alternative meal access points where students or parents could pick up meals, many students—especially those in low-income households—lacked adequate transportation to these access points. Thus, physical proximity to meal access […]

Financial Shocks and Financial Well-Being: What Builds Resiliency in Lower-Income Households?

Households in the U.S. regularly experience unexpected negative income or expense shocks, and low- and moderate-income households experience these shocks at disproportionately high rates. Relatively little is known about the impact these shocks have on households’ subjective sense of financial well-being, and how access to different types of liquidity (e.g., liquid assets, credit cards, social […]

Did government benefits help Israeli households avoid hardship during COVID-19? Evidence from a national survey

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Israel quickly introduced aggressive social distancing measures to curb the virus spread and adapted its unemployment insurance program in response to rising unemployment rates. This study examines the relationship between household income and the experience of material hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel and […]

Use of Public Benefits Over the First Year of Pandemic

In response to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. federal government enacted initiatives designed to help households weather the pandemic’s effects. These initiatives included expansions of existing programs, such as unemployment insurance, as well as new programs like the economic impact payments. In this brief, we investigate the extent to which […]

Impact of COVID-19 on Households with Children

The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions in employment, child care and education. As a result, both parents and children experienced a variety of hardships in their work and education. While these hardships had reverberating effects throughout households, they were not equally distributed across families with children. In this brief, we explore the effects of COVID-19 […]

Employment Changes During COVID-19

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. unemployment peaked at 14.4%. While some workers have returned to payrolls, others have been left behind. This brief examines the nuances of employment changes over the course of the pandemic and the impact of those changes on household financial well-being. Our study finds that the proportion of employees who […]

Housing Hardships During COVID-19

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. households were burdened by the cost of rental and mortgage payments, burdens which disproportionately fell on Black and Hispanic families. Using a 5-wave survey, we examined whether disparities in housing cost burden continued throughout the pandemic and trends in how households fell behind on rent and mortgage payments. […]

State-by-state: How are families in the U.S. using their Child Tax Credit payments?

The temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) is projected to cut American child poverty by more than half. The CTC expansion provides families with $3,600 for every child in the household under the age of six and $3,000 for every child between the ages of six and 17. The vast majority of U.S. […]

The Socioeconomic Impacts of COVID-19 Study: Survey Methodology Report

When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and economic shutdowns began in March 2020, households across the United States were faced with an unprecedented crisis that would affect their health, financial security and overall well-being for an unforeseeable amount of time. In order to examine and track the wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic on households, as […]

“Take my word for it”: Group Texts and Testimonials Enhance State and Federal Student Aid Applications

As the cost of college continues to rise, it has become increasingly important for students to apply for financial aid. However, many students are unaware of the benefits of FAFSA. We launched a field experiment with a non-profit organization to explore the impact of text message interventions on FAFSA application rates. 2,236 potential students were […]

Pinching pennies or money to burn? The role of grit in financial behaviors

We explore whether gritty individuals are better savers by virtue of their wealth or due to diligent choices that benefit their long-term economic health. We test these competing hypotheses by examining the ways in which grit influences how LMI tax filers report spending or saving their tax refund in the months following tax filing. We […]

The Impact of State Earned Income Tax Credit Increases on Material and Medical Hardship

The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides substantial financial assistance to low- and moderate-income workers and has been shown to reduce poverty and encourage employment. Many U.S. states have also implemented their own EITCs to supplement the federal tax credits. Leveraging unique administrative and survey data and employing a difference-in-differences approach, this study investigates […]

Material Hardship among Lower-Income Households: The Role of Liquid Assets and Place

Lower-income households are at risk for material hardship, particularly amidst the economic fallout of COVID-19. Where one lives (e.g., suburb, small town) may affect this risk due to variable access to resources, yet the evidence is mixed concerning the influence of place. We used a pooled, national cross-sectional sample of 66,046 lower-income tax filers to […]

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Housing Instability during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Assets and Income Shocks

Abstract Stable and adequate housing is critical in the midst of a pandemic; without housing, individuals and families cannot shelter in place to prevent the spread of disease. Understanding and combating housing hardships in vulnerable populations is therefore essential to a sound public health response. This study aims to explore the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on […]

SPI researchers win awards for paper at ACCI Conference & VentureCafe STL Fellowship

Stephen Roll and Mathieu Despard, researchers at SPI, recently received the CFP© Board’s ACCI Financial Planning Paper Award for their paper on income loss and financial distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. The award is given to a well-written paper that focuses on important financial planning issues which can be used by consumers, financial planning professionals, and policymakers […]

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

Much of the literature on household finance tends to focus on relatively objective measures of financial security (e.g., savings, income, financial knowledge), and there has been less research on measures of subjective financial well-being. This gap is due in part to the absence of a common understanding on defining and measuring subjective financial well-being. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau […]

Employer-Sponsored Financial Planning: A Study of the Brightside Platform

In this report, we explore employee usage trends of Brightside, an employee financial health platform that is designed to improve the financial health of working families. Using this platform, employees can open “cases” to address a financial need or goal they have. Brightside connects these employees with financial assistants who, in turn, connect the employees […]

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Housing Instability during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Stable and adequate housing is critical in the midst of a pandemic; without housing, individuals and families cannot shelter in place to prevent the spread of disease. Understanding and combating housing hardships in vulnerable populations is therefore essential to a sound public health response. This study aims to explore the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on housing-related […]

Who relocates, where do they move, and why?

The lack of socioeconomic mobility among marginalized populations leads to the concentration of poverty, a long-standing issue in American cities. Empirical studies on neighborhood effects have found that poverty concentration adversely affects the socioeconomic mobility of residents—associated with their economic well-being, employment, education, health, and safety—in lower-income neighborhoods. Through a variety of neighborhood revitalization projects, […]

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.

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.

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.

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.