More than two-thirds of US households hold some form of debt, and household savings rates tend to be lower in the US than in many other developed countries. Particularly for low- and middle-income households in the US, high levels of debt and low levels of savings can impede a family’s ability to meet basic needs, build assets, prepare for retirement, mitigate emergency expenses, or withstand a loss of income. While structural factors like unemployment can lead to under-saving and over-borrowing, a growing body of research suggests that other factors, such as limited attention, present bias, or other behavioral barriers, may also be at play.
The US Finance Initiative (USFI) uses insights from behavioral economics to develop and rigorously evaluate financial products and services that help low- and moderate-income Americans lead healthier financial lives. USFI has a unique role in the consumer finance field in the US, connecting academics and practitioners to design and test innovative financial products.
The initiative directly manages a portfolio of randomized evaluations and pilots with financial institutions and service providers across the US. Our current projects focus on evaluating products to help households pay down debt, save more, and better manage their finances. USFI has ongoing partnerships with the Ford Foundation, the Center for Financial Services Innovation, RAND Corporation, the Filene Research Institute, and leading financial institutions across the US.