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News & Events

Grad Student L'Esperance: Exploring Financial Decision-Making

Household Finance and Well-being

Madelaine L'Esperance STAR Award PeruIn our modern world, life can be a series of big and small financial decisions. So how do individuals make these day-to-day decisions that can impact the rest of their lives? SoHE graduate student Madelaine L’Esperance is digging deeper into this question through her research, paying special attention to how people, particularly low-income families, make financial decisions.

After earning her BA in finance and economics at Loyola University Chicago, Madelaine decided to pursue a Ph.D in Consumer Science at UW-Madison. “There are not a lot of schools that have a program focused on the area of household finance,” states Madelaine. “Much of my research in undergrad came from UW-Madison, so that drew me here.”

Working with the Center for Financial Security

Today, Madelaine spends much of her time at SoHE working with the Center for Financial Security (CFS), a heavily resourced household research hub that brings together parallel scholars from across the campus. Through CFS, Madeline has the opportunity to work with her mentor J. Michael Collins, Ph.D., a leading Consumer Science professor, researcher, and CFS director. “He’s really helped me evolve my research and guided me on courses to develop my quantitative skills,” says Madelaine.

Just being a part of UW-Madison opens doors.
Summer Research and Travel

Madelaine L'Esperance studying in Peru with STAR Award

Madelaine was able to travel and research abroad after earning SoHE’s 2015 Summer Time Academic Research Award (STAR). In Peru, Madelaine worked for Innovations for Poverty Action, a nonprofit research organization founded by Yale alum Dean Karlan.  While there she worked with a team of researchers to develop and evaluate social policy experiments aimed at solving poverty problems.


Madelaine received the STAR award again in 2016 to explore the financial well-being of families with disabled children. Current financial literature in this area is limited, so her goal is to expand research on how these families and their children manage finances and plan for the future. Another research interest is how financial behaviors, particularly borrowing and saving, are transmitted across generations.




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