Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

John G. Lynch

Second Advisor

Bart de Langhe

Third Advisor

Philip Fernbach

Fourth Advisor

Yacheng Sun


The current research was inspired by retirement-readiness reports highlighting severe discrepancies in 401(k) balances and hardship withdrawal rates between four ethnic groups, which led to the guiding question: do minorities save less, or do they save differently? I hypothesize that, holding age and income constant, minorities may rely less on personal savings and more on a family financial buffer in the face of financial shocks. If true this may partially explain the low retirement savings balances among minorities relative to Caucasians. This thesis involves a reanalysis of Erner et al.'s (in preparation) study 2 dataset to look for ethnicity effects not examined in their work. They surveyed attitudes toward a variety of possible strategies to cope with a $2,000 financial shock. I found that, relative to their Caucasian and Asian counterparts, African Americans significantly rely relatively more on family members and less on personal savings to cope, controlling for income and age