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U.S. Financial Diaries

Flag and Hundred Dollar

December 3, 2014
9:00AM - 11:00AM
Breakfast Provided


Abramson Family Auditorium
NYU Washington, DC
1307 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

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USFD is a research project tracking more than 200 low-and moderate-income households over the course of a year, and collecting highly detailed data on household financial activities.

Join Jonathan Morduch as he explains this groundbreaking research, along with the U.S. Financial Diaries team who have spent a year with more than 200 families, distributed across 4 research sites—in the South, the Northeast, the Midwest and the West of the United States. 

The Financial Diaries methodology, used to conduct this research, has been successfully applied in Bangladesh, India and South Africa. The results reveal that poor households lead surprisingly active and sophisticated financial lives, driven by the need to cope with irregular and unpredictable incomes but few reliable tools to absorb economic shocks.

Partners include: New York University’s Financial Access Initiative (NYU-FAI),The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), and Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA).

Jonothan Morduch

Jonathan Morduch

Jonathan Morduch is Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative (www.financialaccess.org), a consortium of researchers focused on financial inclusion. His research centers on microfinance, social investment, and the economics of poverty. He is currently developing a theoretical framework with Jonathan Conning for understanding how governments and philanthropists can use market forces to create social change.

Morduch is co-author of Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day (Princeton 2009) and The Economics of Microfinance (MIT Press 2005, 2nd edition 2010). He has taught on the Economics faculty at Harvard University, and has held visiting positions at Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Tokyo. Morduch has worked with the United Nations and World Bank, and advises global NGOs. He is Associate Editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives and on the board of the Journal of Globalization and Development.

Morduch holds a BA from Brown and Ph.D. from Harvard, both in Economics. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in December 2008 in recognition of his work on microfinance.  

US Financial Diries

The U.S. Financial Diaries (USFD) is a research study collecting detailed financial data from more than 200 low- and moderate-income households over the course of a year. The study has deployed field researchers to meet with households regularly over the course of a year, gathering both data and household stories. Combining quantitative and qualitative research methods, USFD is designed to explore the ways in which households’ financial positions shift over time, and how peoples’ financial choices influence – and are influenced by – other aspects of their lives. 

USFD is being conducted across four research sites: New York City, Ohio/Kentucky, Eastern Mississippi, and San Jose/Central California. Together, these represent a variety of household characteristics, environmental influences and constraints, and financial policy climates. Focusing on such topics as income volatility, financial planning and budgeting, credit challenges, perceptions about financial providers and products, and community dynamics, the study seeks to provide new input about the true daily financial picture for low- and moderate-income families.

At the broadest level, our research seeks to reveal the financial lives of working Americans, providing new input for conversations in realms from public policy to financial product design. We aim to better understand how low- and moderate-income families cope week-to-week with meager budgets, how they try to get ahead, where they fail and where they succeed, how they use formal and informal financial tools, and what external and self-imposed constraints are at play. While we aspire to make a meaningful contribution to the collective understanding about household finances, as the study draws to a close, many questions remain. Therefore, an additional objective of USFD is to galvanize further research to explore the ways in which household financial needs can be better served.

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