Panel: New Evaluation Research on Financial Empowerment Programs for Vulnerable Groups
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Thursday, November 6, 2014: 2:45 PM-4:15 PM
Taos (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Andrea Hetling, Rutgers University
Panel Chairs:  Karen Herman, New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Inc.
Discussants:  Dave Sieminski, Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

Local Adaptation of Programs to Serve the Financial Needs of Low Income Families
Marieka Klawitter1, Shannon Harper2, Matthew Fowle1 and Mary Kay Gugerty1, (1)University of Washington, (2)West Coast Poverty Center

Implementation of Financial Empowerment Programs: The Role of Advocates
Elithet Silva-Martinez, University of Puerto Rico and Fran S. Danis, University of Texas, Arlington

Financial and economic empowerment programs have caught the attention of U.S. policymakers. This vested interest can partially be ascribed to a growing concern for the ability or inability of individuals and families to make informed fiscal decisions in an overly complex global financial market. Although research shows that many households struggle with basic economic and personal finance concepts, little is known about the efficacy of financial empowerment interventions, particularly programs designed for low-income and vulnerable groups. The lack of rigorous evaluations and evidence is difficult, particularly for policymakers and agency administrators looking to develop anti-poverty programs to support asset building and financial skills. Three papers are included in this panel, each of which addresses a different yet complementary aspect of evaluating financial empowerment programs. Methods utilized by the researchers include both qualitative and quantitative analyses, and study samples come from both city and national levels. The first paper uses implementation evaluation data to detail the process of program adaptation of a new financial empowerment center model in Seattle. The research assesses the efficacy of these processes and choices in creating a program better designed to serve the local populations. The second paper examines the role of frontline advocates in implementing a financial literacy curriculum designed for survivors of intimate partner violence. Findings span themes related to the strengths, limitations and areas for improvement of both the curriculum and its implementation as well as recommendations for integration of the curriculum into community-based programs and the impact of the curriculum on the advocates themselves. The third paper presents an outcome evaluation based on a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a the curriculum examined in the second paper. Findings based on repeated measures ANOVA and difference-in-difference models indicate a strong effect of the curriculum on financial literacy and self-reported financial behaviors. The proposed panel begins to fill an enormous gap in our understanding of the efficacy and applicability of financial empowerment programs. The panel spans the main questions in evaluation research, from program adaptions and fidelity, to implementation and the role of frontline workers, to impact evaluation. The discussion will focus on how to design, replicate, implement, and evaluate future programs and fits very well into the conference theme.
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