Challenges and Opportunities in Building Financial Security in Economically Vulnerable Populations
(Poverty and Income Policy)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
A considerable fraction of U.S. households experiences high levels of financial insecurity; for example, in 2017, two-fifths of adults reported lacking sufficient liquid assets to cover even a small emergency (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2018). Moreover, lower-income families and Black and Hispanic households tend to experience disproportionately greater liquidity constraints and lower levels of financial well-being (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2016; Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2017), while many older-age adults do not feel financially prepared for retirement (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2018). Considering that the experience of financial insecurity is persistent among different segments of the U.S. population, this panel aims to demonstrate some of the ways to help economically vulnerable households to become more financially secure.
The first study explores the impact of the Child Development Account (CDA) program implemented through the randomized experiment on multiple financial and social-development outcomes among low-income participants in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Head Start programs. The positive effects of the program stress the importance of integrating CDA programs with other social services for economically vulnerable populations. The second study examines the effects of state-mandated financial education policies on several financial outcomes, including savings-to-income ratio and debt-to-income ratio, while also describing the extent to which the effects may differ across different poverty or income levels. The third study administered a field experiment to test whether providing simple financial tips to lower-income households at the time of tax-filing can impact their debt behaviors and outcomes. Preliminary findings indicate that the delivery of financial tips reduced the amount of held unsecured debt and increased households’ likelihood to follow certain financial behaviors. The final paper conducted a field experiment to investigate how sending quarterly reminders to elderly reverse mortgage borrowers can impact tax and insurance default. The authors find that low-touch reminders reduced the incidence of default, though offering free financial counseling services had no significant impact on outcomes.
Through considerable rigor, this panel will inform future efforts of policymakers, researchers, and practitioners who work towards developing new programs and policies aimed at improving economic stability in vulnerable populations.