A Financial Literacy Curriculum Improves Financial Well-Being among Survivors of Domestic Violence

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A young woman paying her bills.

Evaluating a Financial Education Curriculum as an Intervention to Improve Financial Behaviors and Financial Well-Being of Survivors of Domestic Violence: Results from a Longitudinal Randomized Controlled Study,” (abstract). Judy L. Postmus, Andrea Hetling, and Gretchen L. Hoge. Journal of Consumer Affairs, Vol. 49, No. 1 (Spring 2015).

What it’s about: Researchers Postmus, Hetling, and Hoge wished to evaluate the effectiveness of “Moving Ahead Through Financial Management,” a financial education curriculum created by the Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence to improve female domestic violence survivors’ financial management skills, and ultimately, their financial well-being. To do so, the researchers conducted a longitudinal randomized control study with data collected over four time periods spanning 14 months. The final sample consisted of 195 women ranging in age from 21 to 62 years.

Before they implemented the financial education curriculum, Postmus et al. conducted face-to-face interviews to survey both the treatment group and control groups’ financial knowledge, intentions, behaviors, and strain. At the end of the study, the authors assessed these same factors among both groups.

Why read it: According to the researchers, victims of intimate partner violence are often at risk of financial hardship. An abusive partner may control access to money, deliberately damage the victim’s credit, prevent the victim from working a steady job, and spend money intended to pay bills. To leave an abusive partner, most victims need to create a financial safety plan. However, few financial education programs for survivors exist. As a result, there have also been few rigorous evaluations of financial education programs for survivors of partner violence. This study seeks to fill this gap with the first evaluation of “Moving Ahead Through Financial Management.”

Biggest takeaways: Postmus, Hetling, and Hoge learned that for all factors, participants in the treatment and control groups started in a similar place at the beginning of the study, and showed improvement at the end. However, those in the treatment group showed increased financial knowledge, and higher intentions to act on that knowledge, such as how to follow a monthly or weekly budget, compared to those in the control group. Additionally, participants in the treatment group were more likely to carry out sound financial behaviors like paying bills on time, and they experienced lower financial strain at the end of the study than those in the control group.

Postmus, Hetling, and Hoge note that the agencies and the women in the study all chose to participate, suggesting that the curriculum might not have the same impact if it were mandatory. They also note that all participants in the study were already receiving family violence services, so these results may not necessarily apply to everyone who has experienced domestic violence. Further, they note that the study had a high number of Latinas based on the populations of the agencies from which participants were recruited, making it difficult to assume that the same results would apply to all ethnicities.

Nevertheless, Postmus et al. suggest that a comprehensive program such as “Moving Ahead Through Financial Management” shows promise for enabling victims of intimate partner violence to gain financial stability and freedom. They observe that many survivors of domestic violence have limited access to resources, as well as very little financial knowledge and experience, and may be working to become financially independent for the first time in their lives. They go on to suggest that further study is needed to examine whether financial literacy programs could also be used to help young people learn to recognize economic abuse.

Additional References: Look for more articles about domestic violence and financial literacy in our digital library.

Allstate Foundation's Moving Ahead Through Financial Management curriculum is a comprehensive package of tools and information designed to empower victims to be self-sufficient with their finances.

Access a 7-module curriculum for former and current foster youth and other young people transitioning to adulthood.

Check out an overview of two resources to help young people learn the basics of money management and investment.

Read about 5 tools for building youth financial literacy.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, or the Administration for Children and Families.

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