New Data, New Insights: Releasing the 2018 Pulse Data Set

Written by Thea Garon, Director, CFSI

Today, CFSI is excited to share the data set from the 2018 Baseline Survey of the U.S. Financial Health Pulse, a groundbreaking research initiative designed to provide ongoing snapshots of financial health in America. Stakeholders across the financial health ecosystem can explore these data to better understand the financial lives of their customers, clients, and constituents.

The data set contains responses from more than 5,000 individuals to 100+ questions about how people are spending, saving, borrowing, and planning. Additional survey questions address a range of topics, including physical health, financial stress, employment status, housing conditions, savings at tax-time, risk tolerance, and more.

The data are weighted to be nationally representative so you can generate broad insights about financial health in America. Demographic data on respondents’ age, income, gender, race, ethnicity, and other characteristics will allow you to draw nuanced conclusions about financial health by population sub-groups. (For an example of how you can leverage Pulse data to explore a certain population segment, check out CFSI’s recently released report, “Redesigning the Financial Roadmap for the LMI 50+ Segment: New Challenges and Opportunities.”)

By releasing this data set, we hope that:

  • Academics and other researchers use these data to explore the attitudes, behaviors, and situational factors that shape financial health in America.
  • Financial service providers, non-profit practitioners, and fintech start-ups analyze these data to better understand how their products, programs, and solutions can help individuals lead financially healthy lives.
  • Policymakers and regulators use these data to design smart policies and regulations that advance the financial well-being of all consumers.
  • Leaders in housing, healthcare, education, and employment analyze these data by topic and areas of interest to advance their programs’ goals and objectives.

We also encourage you to publish insights from your analyses in articles, blog posts, and reports, and to share these resources with us so we can help amplify them across our network.*

Start exploring insights from the data today by downloading the data set and survey instrument from the 2018 Baseline Survey. If you have any questions about these resources, please contact us at pulse@cfsinnovation.org. If you need help using these resources to inform your organization’s strategy, CFSI Consulting Services is here to help.

The U.S. Financial Health Pulse is made possible through a founding partnership with Omidyar Network. Additional support is provided by MetLife Foundation, founding sponsor of CFSI’s financial health work, and AARP. CFSI is partnering with the University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research to field the study to their online panel, the Understanding America Study. CFSI is working with engineers and data analysts at Plaid to collect and analyze transactional and account data from study participants who authorize it.

* See guidelines in the Conditions of Use about how to appropriately use and cite these data in publications.

This post is the fourth in a series from the authors of the U.S. Financial Health Pulse baseline report (view the first post here). In the coming months, we plan to discuss different cuts of the data and respond to compelling questions and feedback we receive from our audience.


Thea Garon is a Director on CFSI’s Program Team. She leads the U.S. Financial Health Pulse, a groundbreaking research initiative designed to monitor and track the financial lives of Americans. She holds a Masters of Urban Planning from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service and a B.A. in History from Carleton College. She resides in Chicago, IL.