Marriage Education, Financial Literacy, and Asset Development Roundtable Meeting Summary. Research Needs

07/30/2008

Research needed to support collaboration:

  • More comprehensive, longitudinal, and evaluation research is necessary on family and program outcomes in each field as well as attitudes, practices, consumption, and decision making among low income families.
  • Identify appropriate outcome measures and consider possible definitions for success in these fields
  • Study how services fit together in order to identify gaps and develop an effective models, among other things.

There was a clear need for more comprehensive, longitudinal research. Participants stressed the need to find appropriate outcome measures and to seek a definition of success in these fields. Additionally, discovering how services fit together and defining a model is needed. Evaluation research will be crucial in looking at interventions like auto payroll deposit and removing asset limits. The limited research about financial education, asset building, and marriage education services for low-income people is an obstacle. Partners may not be confident in the efficacy of the programs, especially programming in fields other than one’s own. Even the number of approaches available and supported by different stakeholders makes it difficult to reach consensus on the three top priorities for improving the stability of low-income families, as evidenced in follow-up discussions with participants. 

Relevant Research: Findings from the American Dream Demonstration

IDAs were first tested in a privately-funded project called the American Dream Demonstration (ADD), which provided the inspiration for federal IDA programs.

ADD provided evidence that low-income individuals are able to save despite limited resources. Design features of IDAs (i.e. match rate, match cap, time limits, etc.) had an impact on savings patterns.

Particularly relevant to the roundtable discussion, ADD data indicated that financial education classes affected the amount that program participants saved, up to a point. More than 10 hours of classes did not continue to increase participant savings.

For more information on the ADD research project, see http://gwbweb.wustl.edu/CSD/asset/add.htm

A debate ensued among participants over the effectiveness of financial education. Some suggested studying cases where it worked and looking at the components to understand why it succeeded. Follow up discussions with participants conducting research in this area, reinforced that conducting longitudinal qualitative research documenting low-income couples and families’ financial decision-making processes and skills would help elucidate financial and savings practices that may be difficult to measure in surveys. This research would be useful for developing collaborative program interventions.

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