The U.S. Financial Diaries (USFD) is a research study collecting detailed financial data from more than 200 low- and moderate-income households over the course of a year. The study has deployed field researchers to meet with households regularly over the course of a year, gathering both data and household stories. Combining quantitative and qualitative research methods, USFD is designed to explore the ways in which households’ financial positions shift over time, and how peoples’ financial choices influence – and are influenced by – other aspects of their lives.


USFD is being conducted across four research sites: New York City, Ohio/Kentucky, Eastern Mississippi, and San Jose/Central California. Together, these represent a variety of household characteristics, environmental influences and constraints, and financial policy climates. Focusing on such topics as income volatility, financial planning and budgeting, credit challenges, perceptions about financial providers and products, and community dynamics, the study seeks to provide new input about the true daily financial picture for low- and moderate-income families.


At the broadest level, our research seeks to reveal the financial lives of working Americans, providing new input for conversations in realms from public policy to financial product design. We aim to better understand how low- and moderate-income families cope week-to-week with meager budgets, how they try to get ahead, where they fail and where they succeed, how they use formal and informal financial tools, and what external and self-imposed constraints are at play. While we aspire to make a meaningful contribution to the collective understanding about household finances, as the study draws to a close, many questions remain. Therefore, an additional objective of USFD is to galvanize further research to explore the ways in which household financial needs can be better served.


A more detailed overview of the methodology and research approach of the U.S. Financial Diaries project will be available soon.