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Over the next two years, the Brown School’s Center for Social Development (CSD) will conduct a large-scale intervention study to assess implementation effectiveness and employee financial security outcomes of employer-based financial wellness programs (EFWPs), thanks to a recent grant of $750,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This project is also generously supported by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Ford Foundation. 

In recent years, the number of EFWPs has increased considerably. Distinct from Employee Assistance Programs and employer-based financial education and planning, which are often offered in conjunction with employer-sponsored retirement plans, this field is relatively new. It has yet to determine specific parameters for programs. As well, little is known about the implications of EFWPs for low- to moderate-income (LMI) employees, including whether particular services affect outcomes more than others.
“No large-scale study has examined take-up or demand for such programs, and reliable evidence in this area is currently limited,” said Professor Michal Grinstein-Weiss, associate director of CSD. 

“Employers, however, are a hopeful channel for these financial wellness programs because of their potential to reach low- to moderate-income households at a much larger scale than community-based programs, and their existing stable infrastructure for delivery of services,” she said. “To advance this field, scalable models must be developed and more research is needed.”

Meredith Covington, EFWP project director at CSD, said that to generate evidence about EFWPs as a strategy for building financial security among LMI employees, the CSD will assess two different models: personal financial coaching and payroll loans. 

Using process and outcome evaluations, CSD will seek to determine the extent to which EFWP participation and satisfaction among LMI employees varies by employee characteristics, types of services offered, and organizational factors; the degree to which services are offered as intended; the organizational factors associated with varying levels of program fidelity; and the extent to which the availability and usage of services are associated with employee financial security outcomes, and if those outcomes vary by types of services and program fidelity. 

“We know there are many factors that affect an employee’s financial stability, such as wages, scheduling, access to child care and paid family leave,” Covington said. “While there is more research needed on the benefits of EFWPs, they are a promising tool for promoting financial stability within a workforce. I’m excited CSD will contribute to this emerging research field in the hopes of increasing the number of evidence-based programs in the future.”

In addition to the support from the funders of the EFWP project, CSD has partnered with the Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Center for Financial Services Innovation, as well as numerous employers, EFWP providers and human resources organizations, to advance this work.

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