The U.S. Financial Diaries (USFD) is a research study collecting detailed financial data from more than 200 low- and moderate-income households over the course of a year. USFD employs a research approach that combines the methods of quantitative and qualitative research. By observing household finances over long periods of time and at frequent intervals, we have collected detailed financial data from participating families, covering such territory as assets and debts, cash flows in and out of the households, financial instruments, employment, financial goals, and attitudes about money.

The financial diaries research methodology being implemented in the USFD was developed by Stuart Rutherford and David Hulme and employed by Rutherford in 2002 in Bangladesh, as a way to get a systematic view into the financial lives of poor families, most of whom were outside the formal banking system. The idea was adapted by Orlanda Ruthven in both rural and urban India, and then refined in 2005 by Daryl Collins for a study of 180 South African households. The methodology has now been used in parts of Africa, Central and South America, and in additional sites in India. The book, Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day, builds from the initial studies.

USFD is a joint initiative of NYU Wagner’s Financial Access Initiative (FAI) and The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI). Leadership support for USFD is provided by the Ford Foundation and the Citi Foundation, with additional support and guidance from the Omidyar Network.