Publication Date



Social Policy Institute, Washington University in St. Louis


We explore whether gritty individuals are better savers by virtue of their wealth or due to diligent choices that benefit their long-term economic health. We test these competing hypotheses by examining the ways in which grit influences how LMI tax filers report spending or saving their tax refund in the months following tax filing. We leverage a novel dataset combining longitudinal household financial survey data with administrative tax data for a sample of 6,904 low- and moderate-income tax filers. After balancing individuals on grit with propensity score weighting and machine learning, we find that grit was associated with better financial behaviors, even among individuals with lower incomes. Furthermore, the influence of grit on savings behaviors held in the presence of key life stressors that low-income individuals often face. Furthermore, we find that gritty individuals prioritized spending on education over gifts, resembling the determination and passion to pursue their long-term goals.

Document Type

Working Paper



financial security, education