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Posts by Nicole Kreisberg, Senior Research Analyst

Money School Rounds Out Its First Year

ten dollar bill“Most of our clients have been systematically torn down by their abusers, who strive to make them believe they are worthless, that no one else loves or cares about them, and that they can’t make anything of their lives. Money School is a powerful antidote to this kind of messaging, one that provides survivors with the tools to generate economic recovery and independence.”

–Becca Bradburd, Director of Operations, Elizabeth Freeman Center

August marked the culmination of the first year of Money School, the collaborative financial education effort between AIER and Elizabeth Freeman Center, a Berkshire county-wide service center for domestic and sexual violence survivors. The program served 40 women from across the Berkshires in its first year.

Money School taught women how to work toward a big financial goal, such as going back to school or saving for future needs. We encouraged them to develop a, “My money, my choice” attitude toward finance and to use local resources – bankers, credit counselors, and other women who have gone through a similar experience – for support.

Money School is based on the idea that financial knowledge and more extensive networks of community resources contribute to the self-confidence needed to make better financial decisions for women who are leaving abusive relationships.

To help build these networks, in two of the weeks, one-on-one financial coaches from local banks provided individualized support in credit repair, banking and budgeting, and savings. We also had guest speakers discuss education, savings, and setting goals.

The program sought improvements in three areas: competence, confidence, and connections. Competence was measured by comparing scores on tests taken before and after Money School. Before the workshops, participants in one of the sites, North Adams, scored an average of 60 percent. Afterward, they scored an average of 71 percent.

Confidence also increased, as we noted through observations, questionnaires, and interviews. The workshops helped Read more

How to Implement Money School in Your Community

Money 2After three successful rounds of offering its Money School course to low-income female survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, The American Institute for Economic Research is ready to help other organizations offer their own sessions of Money School.

AIER’s first Train-the-Trainers event will be held on July 30 at its Great Barrington headquarters..

Money School is a five-week financial education and economic security program developed by AIER in collaboration with Elizabeth Freeman Center, an agency serving survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Western Massachusetts.

AIER will host the July 30 training for agencies and organizations interested in learning about why Money School is important, what the curriculum includes, and how to implement it in their communities. All attendees will receive free Money School materials.

The training will introduce the basic content of the five-week workshop series, including setting financial goals, prioritizing debt and repairing credit, saving for the future, tracking income and expenses, and basic budgeting.

It will focus also on the logistical elements of implementing Money School, such as how to evaluate the program and how to recruit guest speakers and financial coaches so that Money School participants will have access to social support and resources after the workshops are finished.

Finally, it will include a discussion of other important issues when implementing Money School, such as sensitivity, communication, and creating a safe environment.

Check out the flier to learn more! Be sure to sign up by the end of the week by emailing me at

Money School is funded in part by a Kip Tiernan Fellowship from Rosie’s Place, Boston, Mass., founded in 1974 as the first women’s shelter in the United States.

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Empowering Survivors of Abuse with Financial Tools

shutterstock_221636809Local bankers recently stepped up to provide survivors of domestic and sexual violence with the tools to handle their own finances. It added up to a meaningful experience, not just for the women, but for volunteers as well.

Money School financial literacy workshops served physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse survivors. The majority of women who participated this year were low-income. The workshops lasted five weeks this spring in North Adams and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and covered a wide range of topics, from budgeting and banking to building assets and credit.

It was offered by the American Institute for Economic Research, collaborating with Elizabeth Freeman Center, which provides services and support to survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Berkshire County.

Many women in abusive relationships are deprived of the opportunity to make personal economic decisions. In this situation, the abuse can also become economic, which means women are denied access to work, to their wages, or to checking or savings accounts and other financial tools. By teaching basic financial literacy, Money School’s goal is to ensure that women gain the knowledge and skills to make their own financial decisions.

These workshops were directed not only at helping women build their financial future; they also provided an opportunity for local financial institutions to introduce their services to this community.

One important component of the program is bringing bankers to women for individualized coaching. Rather than referring women to specific banks, which may be intimidating to those who have never accessed banking before, Money School brings bankers to women at Elizabeth Freeman Center.

Stephanie Martin, a coach from Greylock Federal Credit Union in Pittsfield, said, “Hosting this type of program in a safe environment helped eliminate any barriers between the participants and financial institutions. I noticed everyone felt more at ease and comfortable.”

Breaking down these barriers didn’t just help participants. Several bankers mentioned how giving back was a powerful experience for them personally. They asked how they could contribute more resources for their participants and what more they could do to help women build their financial independence.

“Some of the financial concepts that we take for granted as bankers are life changing to those who have never learned the basics of managing money,” said Maureen Phillips, a coach and financial education program coordinator at Greylock. She said that in just two hours, coaches formed strong bonds with the participants.

Bankers worked with participants to review their credit scores, brainstorm ways to improve their credit, and put financial goals into action.

Phillips added, “It was so rewarding to see the smallest sense of relief, then empowerment, as participants realize that they just might be able to do this by themselves and move on with their lives. That is an incredible feeling.”

Financial coaches represented a number of organizations in Berkshire County, including: Berkshire Bank, NBT Bank, TD Bank, Greylock, the Brien Center, Lee Bank, and Williams College. The coaches were integral in providing participants with individualized, hands-on support.

Money School is funded in part by a Kip Tiernan Fellowship from Rosie’s Place, Boston, Mass., founded in 1974 as the first women’s shelter in the United States.

A Recap of Obama’s Immigration Changes

UncleSamThe Obama administration recently announced  changes to the executive branch’s immigration enforcement priorities. Considering that AIER has worked to objectively analyze the distribution and wages of occupations with large shares of highly skilled immigrants, AIER thought it would be fruitful to present a summary of President Obama’s changes to these priorities here. Some of these changes will impact highly skilled workers, while the biggest change will allow 5 million people to work in the country legally.

Deferred Deportation

The largest change to take place by executive order will be deferring the deportation of nearly 5 million unauthorized immigrants. To qualify for this Read more

A Regional Look at Northeast Demand for H-1B Workers

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston recently released a report that found H-1B visas are not entirely used for STEM fields, nor does the demand come entirely from firms that outsource labor to cheaper countries. The latter finding helps to counter some of the criticism that has made the H-1B visa program so hotly contested.

Focusing on H-1B visa demand from employers in metropolitan areas in the Northeast, the report found that Trenton, New Jersey has the highest demand for H-1B visas, followed by New York City, Boston and Worcester, Mass., and Hartford, Conn.

While people associate H-1B visa holders with all STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), the Boston Fed report finds that employers are mostly looking for computer and mathematics workers, not science and engineering workers.

It also explored the demand for visas among the controversial information technology services firms. These are consulting firms largely based overseas but with offices in the US. India-based Tata Consultancy Services, for example, has been charged with bringing H-1B visa holders to the US to learn about how American IT workers do their jobs for the sole purpose of transferring those jobs over time back to India. This strategy of essentially using US firms for on-the-job training for foreign nationals, US labor interests argue, is displacing US workers.

Read more

AIER Issue Brief: H-1B Visas Have no Impact on Average Wages

How H-1B visa holders impact American wages is hotly debated. Many argue that H-1B workers, the foreign-born, highly skilled, temporary workers that companies can hire for three to six years, drive down American wages. Others argue that H-1B workers actually help increase wages for Americans.

But what if H-1B visa status has less impact on wages than we think?

Read more

Pretty Brilliant: Women in the Technology Industry

Women in the Tech IndustryVerizon’s recent commercial calls on parents to inspire girls’ minds, encouraging girls to study typically male-dominated fields such as science and technology. The ad finishes, “Isn’t it time we tell her she’s pretty brilliant too?” Well, new data from three tech giants show the time for telling girls they’re brilliant might be coming sooner than later.

Recently, Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn released data on the gender makeup of their firms. As Kimberly Weisul of Inc. Magazine explained, none of the three are particularly diverse. Women are in the minority of each company’s workforce, and they are in the very small minority of each company’s leadership. However, AIER data suggest that these three companies’ share of female employees is actually higher than the national average.

Read more

Why Allowing H1B Spouses to Work May Only Increase the Tech Gender Divide

Ironically, allowing H1B spouses to work in the U.S. might only exacerbate the gender divide in the U.S. computer technology industry. The White House recently released a statement that proposed giving work visas to spouses of H1B visa recipients.

As it stands now, the H1B visa program, or the program that allows high-skilled temporary workers entrance to the U.S., does not provide a work visa for recipients’ spouses. Spouses currently can get a student visa, but unless they are on their own work visa, they legally cannot work.

We have heard that this will make the already highly demanded visa even more desirable, especially for computer technology workers. AIER’s latest Research Brief, H1B Jobs: Filling the Skill Gap, showed that computer technology requests make up the lion’s share (70%) of H1B petitions.

Marital Status

Source: AIER Analysis of Ruggles, Alexander, Genadek, Goeken, Schroeder, and Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010.

What will this mean for H1B visa holders? AIER’s analysis from 2010-2012 Census data shows that in the computer technology industry, there are larger shares of H1B men that report being unmarried compared to U.S. citizen men: 74% of H1B men are unmarried, compared to only 6% of U.S. citizen men.

But many H1B females in computer technology are married. 76% of H1B females are married, compared to 58% of U.S. citizen females in that field.

Right now, H1B women have the highest rates of educational attainment in the U.S. computer technology industry (94% have a college degree or higher), but they make up the smallest share of H1B holders in the industry (22%).

It is safe to assume that allowing spouses of H1B visa holders to work will increase the numbers of married applicants. But since the majority of H1B women are already married, this policy might only further exacerbate the gender disparity among H1B visa holders as more men than women apply.


Closing the Computer Technology Skills Gap

Another April, another race for H1B visas. While the annual limit on these visas for temporary high-skilled workers is capped at 65,000, employers requested almost one million in 2013.

US employers complain that the low visa limit is hurting their businesses and the economy. But business leaders waiting for Congress to do something on immigration reform might get old waiting. A close look at H1B visa data offers some direction for easing high-skilled companies’ skills gap. That’s the topic of our first Issue Brief, “H1B Jobs: Fill the Skills Gap.”

Table 1Not surprisingly, the top ten requested H1B visas were dominated by computer science occupations, with finance jobs bringing up the rear. Of the 909,465 requested in 2013, 71 percent were for computer science-related occupations, while 6 percent were in finance.

Each sector has similar labor market shares in high-skilled jobs. Both computer technology and finance jobs totaled about 3 million workers in 2012. The sectors also had similar monthly job opening rates in 2012 and 2013, averaging 3.5 for information and 3.2 for finance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The big differences are in demand for H1B visas and gender make-up of the work force.  Computer technology firms’ requests for H1B visas equal 20 percent of their entire high-skilled work force, while finance’s equal just 2 percent. At the same time, 75 percent of high-skilled computer jobs are held by men. Finance has much more balance, with 55 percent of high-skilled jobs held by women.

Table 3

Educational attainment, however, is not that different. As the Brief reports, the proportion of U.S. citizen males in computer technology occupations with a college degree or higher is 68 percent, just below the 69 percent of U.S. citizen females in finance with a college degree or higher. So, there are women taking technical courses, just not in computer science.

Given the wide gender disparity, it is not surprising that the computer technology industry has such a huge demand for H1B labor. But these findings also highlight the opportunity for industries to intensify their efforts to increase the number of women seeking computer technology jobs.

If US businesses are hurt by a lack of high-skilled computer technology workers, they owe it to their stockholders to identify and eliminate the barriers to US women participating in their high-skilled jobs.

Improving the Nation’s Financial Literacy Starts at Home

“This is not right,” I thought. “Teenagers should have a better sense of understanding financial literacy before they graduate high school!”

032814 Miss HallsAIER and others have written about the poor state of financial education in this country before. Our citizens know abysmally little about inflation, interest rates, and other basic financial literacy concepts.

While AIER’s goal is to increase the economic and financial literacy of the nation, we wanted to start right here in the Berkshires, where AIER is located. Inspired by the lack of knowledge of their peers, two of our interns from Miss Hall’s School, Chloe and Hallie, are organizing a financial literacy event at their high school in May.

For the event and beyond, Chloe started her own blog, aptly and endearingly entitled, “Financial Literacy for Teens.” In it, she laments our education system, especially in Massachusetts (where schools are not even required to teach economics, much less financial education). As she states in one post, “Financial literacy allows one to acquire long-time life skills, just like teenagers learn how to read and write. However, the problem is that, during high school, American schools do not give the same attention to financial literacy as compared to the required subjects of high school.”

Her blog posts resources and games to increase financial understanding, and it even has a poll where students can answer whether or not there is financial education at their school. Through the simple question, Chloe will be able to do her own monitoring of burgeoning education initiatives nation-wide.

AIER could not be more proud of its interns and more excited about Chloe and Hallie’s campaign. Economic and financial education is crucial to the well-being of our entire community and nation. As Chloe eloquently puts it, “‘Money can’t buy happiness.’ Yes, that is true. However, I believe that money can increase the chance of earning happiness. Financial literacy education will help students to make wise choices with their money and increase personal opportunities in the future.”

Miss Hall’s and AIER partner to provide a year-long internship to students. Chloe and Hallie are juniors, so their Horizons internship allows them to fulfill civic responsibility while exploring their interests. For more information on pursuing internships and other educational opportunities with AIER, visit us here.