Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

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

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

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

Article excerpt

The Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence created a financial education curriculum to improve individual financial management skills and, ultimately, to improve domestic violence survivors' financial well-being. This study, guided by the reasoned action approach, evaluates their curriculum using a longitudinal randomized control study, with data collected over four time periods spanning 14 months. The analyses demonstrated that the treatment group had an average improvement between a half point to over a full point on self-reported financial knowledge, financial intentions, and financial behavior and a decrease in financial strain. Moreover, the impact of the curriculum persisted over time. The notable and lasting impact of participation in the curriculum for this study sample has critical implications for other agencies serving domestic violence survivors as well as other programs aimed at improving financial well-being among their clientele.

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Financial education programs that increase consumer knowledge about financial management skills have garnered greater attention, especially in times of economic crisis and distress for individuals, families, organizations, and communities (Gudmunson and Danes 2011). Most of the existing financial education programs were launched in the late 1990s and early 2000s with a variety of institutions (e.g., community organizations, cooperative extension services, businesses, and community colleges) targeting specific populations (e.g., women, welfare recipients, low-income families, adolescents, college students, and persons of color) (Vitt et al. 2000). While most of these programs conducted consumer satisfaction evaluations, very few had the resources or inclination to conduct rigorous evaluations (Braunstein and Welch 2002; Collins 2012; Collins and O'Rourke 2010; GAO 2012; Lusardi and Mitchell 2007). Even studies designed to evaluate impact had challenges with measurements that appropriately captured the specific construct of financial knowledge and behaviors. Moreover, most lacked a conceptual framework to guide the variables measured in the studies, compromising the relevance of studies in terms of identifying specific mechanisms and best practices.

Women are one such specific population at risk for experiencing situations that leave them in worse financial shape (Fonseca et al. 2012; Tamborini, lams, and Reznik 2011). Such situations may include lower earnings in the workplace, divorce, or outliving their spouse (Fonseca et al. 2012). Domestic violence also creates situations in which women may feel economically dependent on the abuser and trapped in the relationship (Borden et al. 2007; Sanders and Schnabel 2006; Zorza 1991). Research and practice in the field have identified abusive strategies to include physical and sexual assault, psychological badgering, emotional blackmail, isolation tactics, and threats to harm the children in an effort to coercively control an intimate partner (Stark 2007). Recent attention has been given by researchers to exploring economic abuse strategies abusers may also utilize to control their partner. Such strategies may include economic exploitation and economically controlling behaviors as well as employment sabotage (Adams et al. 2008; Postmus, Plummer, McMahon, Murshid, and Kim 2012). For example, the abuser may discourage or prevent her from working, harass and disrupt her at work, purposively ruin her credit score, demand to know how money was spent, spend money that was designated for bills, or make important financial decisions without seeking input from his partner (Adams et al. 2008; Postmus et al. 2012 Raphael 1999; Tolman and Rosen 2001).

With survivors identified as a population at risk for financial challenges, several nonprofit domestic violence organizations developed financial education programs to improve individual financial management skills and ultimately, to improve survivors' financial well-being. …

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