The Hidden Financial Lives of Working Americans:

Early Findings from the U.S. Financial Diaries Project

December 3, 2014

Flag and Hundred Dollar

On Wednesday, December 3, researchers and national experts shared and discussed early findings and data from the U.S. Financial Diaries project, a first-of-its-kind study into how working Americans make ends meet. Unpredictability—in income and expenses—creates serious financial challenges for many households. Yet these challenges get little attention in national conversations driven by annual data on economic mobility and employment.

The U.S. Financial Diaries (USFD) project seeks to change those conversations by shedding new light on how American families get by, week to week. Over the course of a year, USFD researchers tracked every dollar earned, spent, borrowed, saved, and shared by 235 low- and moderate-income households in five states. This event offered first access to USFD findings, which highlight:

  • The surprising amount of volatility in incomes from month to month.
  • The hidden systems that families use to cope with unexpected expenses and fluctuating incomes.
  • How households use traditional and alternative financial services and strategies.
  • The intersection of finance with health, transportation, housing, and benefits.

A panel of financial, poverty, and community development experts discussed the implications of the research for innovations in policy, products, services, and regulation to help working American families.



The Constance Milstein and Family Global Academic Center has been made possible through the generous leadership and support of alumni and friends, who have facilitated the University's purchase of this global academic site.