The U.S. Financial Diaries (USFD) is a research study collecting detailed financial data from 235 low- and moderate-income households over the course of a year. USFD employs a research approach that combines the methods of quantitative and qualitative research. By observing household finances over long periods of time and at frequent intervals, we have collected detailed financial data from participating families, covering such territory as assets and debts, cash flows in and out of the households, financial instruments, employment, financial goals, and attitudes about money.
Deep and ongoing engagement between field researchers and participating households forms the foundation of the financial diaries methodology, and this engagement is fundamental to what makes USFD unique among economic and financial surveys. The resulting intimacy and trust aids fieldworkers in uncovering personal details that are key inputs to understanding the data. Engaging with households over time makes it possible to back-fill data and ask important follow-up questions. The geographic breadth of participants reveals a range of experiences.
The study offers a combination of data and household stories that 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.
The project was jointly created by Jonathan Morduch of the Financial Access Initiative at NYU Wagner, Rachel Schneider of The Center for Financial Services Innovation, and Daryl Collins of Bankable Frontier Associates. Morduch and Schneider are the principal investigators for the ongoing data analysis.
USFD received leadership support from the Ford Foundation and Citi Foundation, with additional support and guidance from the Omidyar Network.
Read more about the USFD methodology and sample.
The Financial Access Initiative is a research center housed at NYU Wagner focused on exploring how financial services can better meet the needs and improve the lives of poor households. At FAI, we systematize evidence and communicate lessons, generate new evidence, and frame policy and regulatory issues. Visit the FAI website
; follow us @financialaccess
The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) is the nation’s authority on consumer financial health. CFSI leads a network of financial services innovators committed to building a more robust financial services marketplace with higher quality products and services. Through its Compass Principles and a lineup of proprietary research, insights and events, CFSI informs, advises, and connects members of its network to seed the innovation that will transform the financial services landscape. For more, visit the CFSI website,
and follow on Twitter at @CFSInnovation
Professor of Public Policy and Economics
NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
Jonathan Morduch is Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. His research centers on microfinance, social investment, and the economics of poverty.
Morduch is co-author of The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty (Princeton 2017), Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day (Princeton 2009) and The Economics of Microfinance (MIT Press, 2nd edition 2010), and he is co-editor of Banking the World: Empricial Foundations of Financial Inclusion (MIT Press 2012). He has taught on the Economics faculty at Harvard University, and has held visiting positions at Stanford, Princeton, the University of Tokyo, and Hitotsubashi University. Morduch has worked with the United Nations and World Bank, and advises global NGOs.
Morduch holds a BA from Brown and Ph.D. from Harvard, both in Economics. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in December 2008 in recognition of his work on microfinance.
Senior Vice President, Center for Financial Services Innovation
Rachel Schneider is a Senior Vice President at CFSI, and co-author of The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty. The Financial Diaries connects the findings of the ground-breaking U.S. Financial Diaries research project, which collected highly detailed data about how 235 households save, spend, borrow and plan over the course of a year, with the broad trends upending the economic lives of American families. It uncovers the emergence of a hidden inequality, in addition to disparities in income and wealth – an inequality in access to steady finances. It provides a framework for how to develop the products and policies that can help.
Rachel is a highly sought-after consultant and speaker. Her research has been featured in the nation’s top publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others.
Though she began her career as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch & Co., Rachel credits her commitment to the potential for innovative finance to solve major social problems from her days as a VISTA Volunteer (now AmeriCorps). She holds a J.D./M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. from UC Berkeley.
Director, Bankable Frontiers
Daryl Collins is co-author of Portfolios of the Poor and Director at Bankable Frontier Associates, a niche consulting practice in Boston (see www.bankablefrontier.com). She is now leading the research efforts at BFA, building on an expertise in the demand-side dynamics of development finance. She is currently overseeing Financial Diaries studies in Kenya, India, Mexico, South Africa and advising the U.S. Financial Diaries.
Daryl began her career as an emerging market economist at a New York investment bank before moving to South Africa in the late 1990’s. She ultimately joined the finance faculty of the University of Cape Town, where she leveraged a successful career in portfolio management into research on the financial behavior of the poor. She has published extensively on financial market behavior in developing countries. Daryl holds a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. in economics from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from New York University.
Managing Director, Financial Access Initiative (FAI), NYU
Managing Director, US Financial Diaries
Timothy Ogden serves as Managing Director, coordinating FAI’s operations, research and communications. His previous work experience encompasses the private and nonprofit sectors. Prior to joining the Financial Access Initiative he was the Chief Knowledge Officer at Geneva Global, Inc., an international philanthropy advisory company, and founding editor of Gartner Press at Gartner, Inc. He founded and currently leads Sona Partners, a thought leadership communications firm, where he has helped develop more than 20 books for major publishers. Ogden is co-author of Toyota Under Fire, and author of Experimental Conversations, a collection of interviews with economists conducting field experiments on poverty alleviation interventions. Ogden also serves as vice-chair of the board of GiveWell, as a contributing editor for Alliance Magazine, and writes regularly for the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Manager, U.S. Financial Diaries
Nancy Castillo leads the planning and implementation of the U.S. Financial Diaries project.
Prior to this position, Ms. Castillo was an Associate for the Remittances and Development program at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, DC. In this role, she served as a project manager, conducted market research, and provided technical assistance to financial institutions. Her research and analysis focused on migrant transnational economic activities in the United States and various countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Based on this research, Ms. Castillo led the development of a financial literacy model, which was implemented in the same regions worldwide.
Ms. Castillo was also a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs in Pittsburgh, PA, and a Fulbright Scholar in Ecuador, where her research focused on the financial intermediation of remittances from Ecuadorian emigrants. She received her B.A. in political studies and Latin American studies from Pitzer College.
Data Analysis Manager, U.S. Financial Diaries
Anthony Hannagan manages the analysis of the Diaries data. Data analysis in USFD encompasses a variety of topics as the project progresses through phases, which include survey-software testing, fieldwork monitoring, a retrospective validation of the data with households, and analysis-phase projects in data exploration, understanding data quality, and the ongoing effort to piece together the evidence to learn about households' experiences and strategies. Anthony has been with the analysis team since it was preparing for data collection in early 2012.
Before joining the USFD team, Anthony worked in international development research. He researched growth indicators as an assistant at Boston College, where he earned an M.A. in economics, and worked in international economic consulting as an undergraduate. Anthony's undergraduate studies focused on economics and mathematics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Alex C. Bibb, Field Researcher
Mayra S. Cerda, Field Researcher
Kate Marsh Dole, Editor
Karen Y. Durgans, Field Researcher
Maria Enache, Data Analyst
Elizabeth Engle, Intern
Luzdary Giraldo, Field Researcher
Naishia Jackson, Field Researcher
Barbara Kiviat, Research Associate
Aishwarya Kumar, Graduate Assistant
Jean Lee, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Fredy Llanos, Field Researcher
Mithu Maniruzzaman, Field Researcher
Zac McDermott, Data Analyst
Kristen McNeill, Graduate Assistant
Olivia L. Montgomery, Field Researcher
Rourke O'Brien, Research Associate
Spencer Perry, Intern
Angela Profeta, Doctoral Researcher
Karla C. Reyes, Field Researcher
Joyce Roberson, Field Researcher
Kyle Schoolar, Field Researcher
Zackary Seaverns, Intern
Julie Siwicki, Field Researcher and Research Associate
Viral Tarpara, Graduate Assistant
Lisa Caiying Xu, Graduate Assistant
The USFD Advisory Board
Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Law, Economics and Organization, NYU Law School
Michael S. Barr
Professor of Law, University of Michigan
Senior Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Managing Director of Consumer Financial Empowerment and Affordable Housing, JPMorgan Chase Foundation
Alan P. Branson
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union
Professor of Economics, Swarthmore College
Treasurer, The City and County of San Francisco
J. Michael Collins
Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
President, The Russell Sage Foundation
Senior Vice President at Kinecta Federal Credit Union and President at Kinecta Alternative Financial Solutions
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University
Managing Director, Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund
President and CEO, ACCION Network in the U.S.
Senior Strategic Policy Advisor, AARP
Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
CEO, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions
Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Senior Associate and Director of Remittances and Development,
Chief Executive Officer, EARN
William M. Rogers III
Professor of Public Policy and Chief Economist, Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University
Researcher and Asset Building Project Director, Policy Matters Ohio
Senior Fellow, Urban Institute
Former President, El Banco de Nuestra Comunidad
William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology, Columbia University