Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Recommends Book Co-authored by NYU Wagner Professor Jonathan Morduch

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Recommends Book Co-authored by NYU Wagner Professor Jonathan Morduch

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is currently recommending Portfolios of the Poor, a groundbreaking book co-authored by NYU Wagner Professor of Public Policy and Economics Jonathan Morduch, for reading and discussion by the Facebook community.

The influential book is the result of systematic research on how the global poor – billions of people around the world who live on less than $2 a day – manage their money. Zuckerberg’s book club, A Year in Books, selects works with big ideas that impact public policy, society and business. Portfolios of the Poor is his 17th pick.

Professor Morduch, managing director of the Financial Access Initiative, wrote the book with Daryl Collins of Bankable Frontier Associates, who received her Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis at NYU Wagner, and researchers Stuart Rutherford and Orlanda Ruthven.

Published in 2009 by Princeton University Press, Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day is the first in-depth examination of how the world’s poorest households patch together financial lives.The book shows that they do so with surprising sophistication and complexity, refuting commonly held assumptions about the poor.

Over 250 families in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa participated in the study. Their financial diaries show that poor households are not living hand-to-mouth, but that most of them save and borrow with their future in mind, and maintain complex financial lives because they are poor, not in spite of it.

FAI Researching How Low-Income Americans Use Financial Products [Video]

FAI Researching How Low-Income Americans Use Financial Products [Video]

The Financial Access Initiative (FAI) at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service has launched an important new study to better understand the financial lives of low-income Americans.

FAI, in partnership with Bankable Frontier Associates and The Center for Financial Services Innovation, will track families in four geographic regions in the U.S. over 16 months and collect highly detailed data on household financial activity. The study promises a timely and independent look at how low-income Americans are managing their financial lives. The $3 million project is supported by a grant from the Citi Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

FAI's managing director discusses the launch of the U.S.-centered financial diaries project in this video. The managing director is Jonathan Morduch, professor of public policy and economics at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU.

The "Financial Diaries" methodology employed to conduct this research has been successfully applied in Bangladesh, India and South Africa. The results of that FAI research were detailed in a groundbreaking book Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day (Princeton University Press, 2009). Instrumental in broadening conceptions of global poverty, the book revealed that poor households lead surprisingly active and sophisticated financial lives, driven by the need to cope with irregular and unpredictable incomes but few reliable tools to absorb economic shocks.

"Improving access to reliable, flexible financial products and services is an important step to help poor and low-income households better manage their economic lives," says Professor Morduch. "The Financial Diaries research has proven to be an effective means of gathering important information to inform the design of these kinds of financial tools."

"The findings in Portfolios of the Poor provided an eye-opening look at the financial lives of the poor in other countries, and we're excited to use this lens in the U.S. context," says Brandee McHale, Chief Operating Officer at the Citi Foundation. "This research can fill an important gap in the current data on how low-income families in our own backyards are making ends meet and help reduce the barriers to financial well-being that these families currently face."

In the U.S., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) found that some 17 million adults live in households without any bank accounts. Another 43 million have accounts but are "underbanked," relying on non-bank services such as pay-day lenders and pawn shops. Yet, there is little concrete data about the needs, preferences and use of financial services by low-income families.

"Remarkably, more than 30 million low-income families across the U.S. lack access to traditional banking and financial systems," says Frank DeGiovanni, director of financial assets at the Ford Foundation. "This landmark study will help us to better understand their financial lives, greatly improving the ability the financial industry of nonprofits, and policymakers to meet their needs and increase the quality, affordability, and accessibility of financial services."

To conduct this groundbreaking research, the U.S. Financial Diaries team will spend one-and-a-half years with 300 families, distributed across 4 research sites-in the South, the Northeast, the Midwest and the West. Researchers will meet with families every two weeks to collect highly detailed data on household cash flows.

This methodology of regularly observing household finances over long periods of time allows researchers to identify often-overlooked strategies of financial management, such as the use of informal borrowing and lending with neighbors and family members. The study is designed to capture spending and savings habits that often remain hidden in large surveys. The findings will be published in a series of reports beginning in mid-2012.


Featured Case Study: Ellen Schall and the Department of Juvenile Justice

Featured Case Study: Ellen Schall and the Department of Juvenile Justice

When Dean Ellen Schall was appointed commissioner of New York City’s Department of Juvenile Justice, she transformed the troubled agency into one that Harvard University and the Ford Foundation selected to win their prestigious Innovations Award. This iconic case study is featured on Electronic Hallway at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs

FELPS Hosts NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott

FELPS Hosts NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott

NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott addresses NYU Wagner's Fellowship for Emerging Public Service Leaders on April 27, 2011.

Just three weeks into his role as head of the nation's largest public school system, New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott spoke with NYU Wagner's Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service (FELPS) on April 27.

He discussed his career path, including founding a youth mentorship program, heading the National Urban League, and serving as Deputy Mayor of Education and Community Development. Chancellor Walcott also talked about leadership lessons he has learned from these experiences, including the importance of recognizing mentorship moments, the growth that comes from hiring people who will challenge you, and strategies for maintaining work-family balance in public service careers.

Financial Management

Advanced Professional Certificate in Health Finance

This graduate-level certificate offers knowledge and skills for financial managers in healthcare organizations. This certificate will allow you to conduct financial analysis, understand issues of budgeting, cost determination, pricing and rate setting in a healthcare environment. It also provides a solid understanding of the economic principles in the context of the field of health care.

Students must complete 15 credits to obtain this Certificate (courses are 3 credits unless noted).

Required Courses:

Students complete the following courses (12 credits):

  • CORE-GP 1021 Financial Management for Public, Nonprofit, and Health Organizations
  • HPAM-GP 4830 Health Economics: Principles (1.5 credits)
  • HPAM-GP 4831 Health Economics: Topics in Domestic Health Policy (1.5 credits) or HPAM-GP 4832 Health Economics: Topics in International Health Policy
  • HPAM-GP 4840 Financial Management for Health Care Organizations I: Financial Management and Budgeting (1.5 credits)
  • HPAM-GP 4841 Financial Management for Health Care Organizations II: Capital Financing and Advanced Issues (1.5 credits)
  • HPAM-GP 2845 Advanced Health Care Payment Systems

Students must also complete one course (3 credits) from the following:


Students must waive the following courses if they are prerequisites to any of the above elective courses a student wishes to take toward the certificate. If a student is unable to waive a course below, they must take it in addition to the 12 credits required for the certificate.

  • CORE-GP 1018 Microeconomics for Public Management, Planning, and Policy Analysis
  • CORE-GP 1011 Statistical Methods for Public, Nonprofit, and Health Management


Financial Management and Public Finance

Advanced Professional Certificate in Financial Management and Public Finance

This graduate-level certificate is designed for students with, or aspiring towards, a career in finance in the nonprofit and public sectors.

The curriculum exposes students to a broad array of analytical tools, including economics, budgeting, accounting, capital financing, investment management, debt management and financial statement analysis.

Students must complete 12 credits to obtain this Certificate (courses are 3 credits unless otherwise noted).

Required Courses:

Students must complete or waive the following course:

  • CORE-GP 1021 Financial Management for Public, Non profit, and Health Organizations


Students must choose electives for the certificate from the following list of courses:

Prerequisite Courses:

Students must waive the following courses if they are prerequisites to any of the above elective courses a student wishes to take toward the certificate. If students are unable to waive the course(s), only one course from the list below may count toward the certificate and other courses would need to be completed in addition to the certificate.

  • CORE-GP 1018 Microeconomics for Public Management, Planning, and Policy Analysis 
  • CORE-GP 1011 Statistical Methods for Public, Nonprofit, and Health Management


For Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Whirlwind Day at Wagner

For Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Whirlwind Day at Wagner

Gordon Brown (r.) enjoys light-hearted moment at Henry Hart Rice Forum with Mitchell Moss.

Gordon Brown, the British Labour Party leader who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from June 2007 to May 2010, and is a current Member of Parliament, spent an engaging day at NYU Wagner on April 11 with groups of students, faculty, alumni, staff, and the dean, Ellen Schall. In the evening, he spoke to more than 150 friends of the public-service graduate school as the guest of the Henry Hart Rice Forum moderated by Mitchell Moss, Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Wagner.

The Right Honourable Mr. Brown projected optimism about globalization. He said vast increases in producers and consumers in fast-developing countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Brazil will benefit the West, as long as the U.S. and Europe invest heavily in science, technology and education and keep the doors of global trade open.

In this way, Mr. Brown argued, the West can ensure it will profit and gain new sources of employment from globalization -- and ease the understandable anxiety so rife today about economic change.

"For the first time last year, in almost 200 years, Europe and America are being out-produced, out manufactured, and out-invested by the rest of the world," he said. "...It makes people insecure; it makes people feel, ‘Are we witnessing the decline of the West?...And then people feel insecure about their jobs."

It is this economic "sea change," which surpasses even that of the Industrial Revolution, that holds the seeds of opportunity for a more balanced global economy, according to the former prime minister.

"The people who are producing goods in China, India, and elsewhere - they don't want just to be workers producing goods; they want to be consumers too," he said.

"They want to enjoy some of benefit of the goods that come with a higher standard of living. They want to be part of the industrial society as middle class consumers of the future," and they want to have "houses, electrical goods, better clothes, higher quality food, health care, and education."

"There is a huge opportunity for us in what is about to happen, because we in America and Europe can be the people who are equipped to sell goods and services that are sold in the rest of the world," added Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown, who has a PhD in History from the University of Edinburg, was introduced by Dean Schall and queried by Professor Moss about his youthful influences (mainly his parents and his school teachers), rapport with U.S. presidents (from Clinton to Bush to Obama), and Scotland's historical impact on the American experiment.

The event was held at the Kimmel Center of New York University. Mr. Brown is the university's inaugural Distinguished Global Leader in Residence.

In his remarks, the former prime minister warned against a "race to the bottom" that will occur if countries are permitted to attract business via deregulation. What is required, he stated, is the development and maintenance of consistent international standards for investment.

Fielding a question from a Wagner student about the environmental impact of burgeoning consumer economies, he said that worldwide treaties, such as the one attempted but not enacted at the recent Copenhagen Climate Summit, are clearly merited .


Subscribe to Academics