Panel Paper: Financial Capability Metrics

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 9:10 AM
Schaefer (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jodi Jacobson, University of Maryland School of Social Work

Measuring financial capability among low-to-moderate income families is complicated given the lack of standardized measures and agreed upon outcome indicators within the field. This presentation describes the process of selecting outcome measures for a pilot study evaluating the Financial Stability Pathway (FSP) program in a large urban city. The FSP was developed by the Aspen Institute, in partnership with the Maryland CASH Campaign, to connect low-to-moderate income individuals and families to financial services. Researchers from the University of Maryland are evaluating outcomes from the FSP related to how FSP-trained providers are able to assist individuals and families in accessing and using affordable and appropriate financial products, saving for emergencies, building long-term assets, and managing their money better.

Human service providers at six community organizations, including free tax preparation sites, non-profit organizations that conduct public benefits screenings, certified credit counseling programs, and employee assistance programs, were trained to provide financial assessments, referrals, and other supportive services to individuals interested in improving their financial capability and economic well-being. Researchers assessed both the effects of the FSP trainings on providers and the effects of the FSP services on clients. Preliminary descriptive results and the process of selecting outcome measures will be discussed. The measures assessing providers’ knowledge, attitudes, and practice behaviors include scales and questions focused on the effects of professional education on the providers’ own financial capability, personal financial wellness, personal financial knowledge, personal financial management behaviors, and their use of practice behaviors with clients seeking financial capability services. Client outcome measures include scales and questions related to financial education, personal financial wellness, attitudes toward financial capability, and financial behaviors. Standardized measures and questions were used whenever possible, allowing for comparisons to prior research. The presenter will share new scales and items that were created by the research team in collaboration with the FSP providers and trainers, and researchers in the financial capability field.

Measures for assessing providers’ ability or self-efficacy to work with clients on financial problems are virtually non-existent. In a prior study led by the presenter, the researchers developed and modified measures to assess confidence related to financial stability work with clients. These measures will be discussed in detail during the presentation. To measure client outcomes, researchers need to balance the need for standardized outcomes with the appropriateness of the measures for the population receiving services. For low, or no income, individuals and families, outcomes may be quite different than those we would expect to measure for services geared toward working families with moderate incomes. The process used to select standardized scales and outcomes questions for the present study, which included no, low and moderate income individuals and families, will be discussed.