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USFD tracked more than 200 low- and moderate-income households over the course of a year to collect highly detailed data on how families manage their finances on a day-to-day basis. This research reveals hard-to-see aspects of the financial lives of working Americans, providing new insight for the design of financial services policies, programs and products for a broad range of Americans. USFD is a joint initiative of NYU Wagner’s Financial Access Initiative (FAI) and The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI). Leadership support for USFD is provided by the Ford Foundation and the Citi Foundation, with additional support and guidance from the Omidyar Network.


Photo credits: Juan Carlos (row 1), Whitten Sabbatini (row 2), Whitten Sabbatini/Robin Holland (row 3)
Photo credits, top to bottom: Juan Carlos, Whitten Sabbatini, Robin Holland
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“The findings in Portfolios of the Poor provided an eye-opening look at the financial lives of the poor in other countries, and we're excited to use this lens in the U.S. context. This research can fill an important gap in the current data on how low-income families in our own backyards are making ends meet and help reduce the barriers to financial well-being that these families currently face.”
- Brandee McHale, Chief Operating Officer at the Citi Foundation

“Remarkably, more than 30 million low-income families across the U.S. lack access to traditional banking and financial systems. This landmark study will help us to better understand their financial lives, greatly improving the ability the financial industry of nonprofits, and policymakers to meet their needs and increase the quality, affordability, and accessibility of financial services.”
- Frank DeGiovanni, Director of Financial Assets at the Ford Foundation

More than 1 in 4 American households (28%) are either unbanked or underbanked.

(Source: FDIC, 2011)

Study Sites: US Financial Diaries

Click on a region to explore our research.

“I took today off because stress is too high. I was going to borrow $200 from a friend and it fell through. I truly need it. I want to cry and can't. I need it before the month is out. I had it and lent it to my family and I'm catching hell getting it back.”
- Tammy, age 60, Cincinnati

“Sometimes I feel like banks steal your money. I don't really trust the bank.” 
- Vivian, age 21, San Jose

“I keep the checking account strictly for paying bills.  I've always had a checking account.  I have had savings account, but I don't have anything to save right now.  Every dime I get I need.”
- Rebecca, age 54, Cincinnati

“Sometimes I think I'd be better off if I was unemployed. I'd probably make more.”
- Robert, age 44, Kentucky

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

- American author James Baldwin, 1960