Understanding financial vulnerability among Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics in the United States

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Research Report

What drives observed differences in financial vulnerability among Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites in the U.S.?


The COVID-19 pandemic has not only brought to light the deeply rooted financial struggles many people face in America, it has also exacerbated racial inequality. In particular, minority communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in many ways, making them ideal targets for efforts to promote financial well-being. This paper examines the financial vulnerability of Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics in the United States, along with potential drivers, using two recent datasets.

Key Insights

  • More Blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. report being financially vulnerable compared to Whites.
  • The key factors contributing to the racial and ethnic financial vulnerability gap are single parenthood, youth, lack of savings and assets, excessive debt, expensive money management, and low financial literacy.
  • Asians' financial literacy levels are comparable to those of Whites in the TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index and are significantly better in the 2021 National Financial Capability Study dataset.
  • Aggregated statistics may hide heterogeneity within subpopulations, including important cultural aspects (e.g., multigenerational households).
  • The understanding of basic financial concepts has a significant impact on financial vulnerability.

The research findings can aid in developing more inclusive and tailored financial education programs.


To explore patterns of financial vulnerability, the researchers use two recent datasets: the 2021 National Financial Capability Study and the 2022 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index. They also held roundtable discussions with experts from National CAPACD and UnidosUS, two advocacy organizations for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, and the Hispanic community, respectively.

Financial education across high and low composite vulnerability scores


Andrea Hasler

The George Washington University

Annamaria Lusardi

The George Washington University

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania

Alessia Sconti

The George Washington University

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