Savings Works... and our Research Proves it

EARN evaluates the impact of our work and publishes original data, sharing lessons learned and best practices. EARN is committed to using rigorous research and direct service experience to transform the financial services landscape and to champion effective public policies. 

Want more Big Data on Small Savings? Click here.

Archived research publications

The Art & Science of Saving: EARN's Research Approach in the Digital Age

April 2017

EARN Research Brief


The EARN Research Institute conducts extensive primary research on the financial lives and preferences of low-income people in the United States. The institute applies behavioral economics to develop innovative programs that effectively encourage savings behaviors. This paper has three main objectives: first, to share the principles that underpin the work of the EARN Research Institute; second, to describe the phases of research that the institute conducts; and third, to share successes and challenges in carrying out this work. Our intention is to offer relevant insights to others in the field about integrating applied research in a non‐profit technology setting.


Read the full report here

Great Expectations: Findings from 13 Years of Children's Education Savings Accounts

June 2016

EARN is a leading non-profit provider of microsavings programs in the United States. In our 15 year history, EARN has served more than 6,000 families who have set aside $7 million of their own money for their long-term goals and near-term financial stability. The EARN Research Institute gathers, analyzes, and shares relevant data internally and externally to inform program design, support operations, and maximize program impacts.

This study presents findings from our children’s education savings accounts, which EARN has offered for 13 years. The research yields insights into how families save and how this program has impacted their lives. The goal of this paper is to share key findings with the field, with the specific end of supporting other groups that are seeking to encourage savings, to improve access to education, and/or to increase prosperity for working families.

Read the full report here

Saving 10x for Education: The Impact of EARN’s TripleBoost Microsavings Program on Families’ Education Savings

November 2015

EARN, a leading provider of microsavings programs in the US, just released the results of a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) to measure the impacts of TripleBoost, a program designed to help working families save for their children’s education. RCT findings reveal that during the 6‐month study period, TripleBoost families saved an average of $681 for their children’s education, more than 10 times the average amount saved by families in the Control group. EARN’s TripleBoost program effectively drives families to set aside 10x more in savings for their children’s education than they would save without the program.

Read the full report here

Implementing Evaluation in Financial Coaching: An Exploratory Case Study

September 2013

As a leader in the field of financial coaching, today EARN releases new research on how financial coaching can be made more effective. These new findings and recommendations will inform the tech platform we’re building to help 1 million low-income workers save $1 billion by 2022. To the Citi Foundation, whose support made this research possible, we offer our appreciation.

Read the full report here

Children’s Education Savings Accounts: A Case Study of San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College Program

June 2013

This report outlines key learnings from EARN’s involvement as a research partner with Kindergarten to College, an innovative program run by the City and County of San Francisco that provides a college savings account to each child entering kindergarten within the San Francisco Unified School District.  The findings in this report are particularly relevant to other cities, counties, and states that are exploring the possibility of similar accounts for children. 

Read the full report here

Retirement Savings among Lower-Income Adults: Challenges and Opportunities to Improve the Effectiveness of the Saver’s Tax Credit

January 2013

As millions of Baby Boomers are getting ready to retire, just 39% of the lowest-income Americans have savings towards that goal, according to a new study by the EARN Research Institute. Through a national telephone survey of 1,004 lower-income adults and secondary research sources, EARN reveals barriers to retirement savings, provides an overview of attitudes, and offers specific recommendations on how to make the Saver’s Tax Credit more effective.

Read the full report here 

Saving for Higher Education in the US: Parents’ Beliefs, Behaviors, and Preferences

October 2012

The EARN Research Institute recently surveyed 1,001 US parents about saving money for their children's education after high school. We learned that parents overwhelmingly want to prioritize saving for college, but there is no optimally designed savings account that meets their needs. Our research brief provides an overview of parents’ current beliefs and choices, and proposes an ideal account mechanism that is specifically designed to help parents effectively save for higher education.

Read the full report here

Redesigning Matched Savings to Scale: EARN’s Efforts to Improve Efficiency and Increase Autonomy

April 2012

EARN is an expert on how to save, and we realized that the current model of matched savings accounts is only serving less than 1% of the more than 57 million Americans who need it. That’s why we decided to seek a different solution that would lower the cost of providing savings accounts to low-wage families while maintaining – or even increasing – the impact for those families.

Read the full report here

Marin County's Growing Education Debt Problem: EARN Research Findings and Recommendations for Action

March 2011

The promise of higher education as the equalizer of socio-economic status is being compromised by the debilitating debt that increasingly accompanies higher education. This EARN Research Institute report offers compelling new data on the landscape of education debt as it relates to economic mobility and offers tangible policy recommendations to leaders at the local, state, and federal level.

Read the full report here

The Missing Link: Financial Self-Efficacy's Critical Role in Financial Capability

November 2010

EARN's findings on the role of financial knowledge and financial self-efficacy provide an evidence-based guide for decision making on programmatic decision and investment in efforts to create economic prosperity for low-income Americans.

Read the full report here

Behavioral Models for Prosperity: A Statistical Assessment of Savings and Behavioral Change

November 2010

A Cognitive-Behavioral-Emotional model of financial life was developed during the present investigation that fit the data collected for a large number of people on a small set of variables, making this model a highly powerful one from a statistical perspective. The model was applied here to ascertain the effectiveness of the EARN Savers program for improving the financial lives of individuals.

Read the full report here

Advancing Financial Coaching for Low-Income Populations

February 2010

Financial coaching has emerged as a powerful tool with great promise to create prosperity for low-income Americans. This white paper explores mid-stream learnings, key questions, and recommendations for advancing the burgeoning field. Nearly two years into our work, EARN offers lessons and best practices that could improve the field of financial coaching for low-income people and advance the burgeoning national conversation on coaching.

Read the full report here

What Motivates Low Income Earners to Save Money?

January 2010

EARN’s qualitative research study finds that 83% of low-income workers continue saving after completing a matched savings program. This study answers the following questions: (1) Do workers who complete matched savings programs continue to save beyond the program? (2) What are the mechanisms and circumstances that allow for continued savings? (3) Does participation in a matched savings program correlate with increased civic engagement?

Read the full report here