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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Individual Author: Hoxby, Caroline; Turner, Sarah
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2013

    Only a minority of high-achieving, low-income students apply to colleges in the same way that other high-achieving students do: applying to several selective colleges whose curriculum is designed for students with a level of achievement like their own. This is despite the fact that selective colleges typically cost them high-achieving, low-income students less while offering them more generous resources than the non-selective postsecondary institutions they mainly attend. In previous work, we demonstrate that the vast majority of high-achieving, low-income students are unlikely to be reached by traditional methods of informing students about their college opportunities since such methods require the students to be concentrated geographically. In this study, we use a randomized controlled trial to evaluate interventions that provide students with semi-customized information on the application process and colleges' net costs. The interventions also provide students with no-paperwork application fee waivers. The ECO Comprehensive (ECO-C) Intervention costs about $6 per student, and...

    Only a minority of high-achieving, low-income students apply to colleges in the same way that other high-achieving students do: applying to several selective colleges whose curriculum is designed for students with a level of achievement like their own. This is despite the fact that selective colleges typically cost them high-achieving, low-income students less while offering them more generous resources than the non-selective postsecondary institutions they mainly attend. In previous work, we demonstrate that the vast majority of high-achieving, low-income students are unlikely to be reached by traditional methods of informing students about their college opportunities since such methods require the students to be concentrated geographically. In this study, we use a randomized controlled trial to evaluate interventions that provide students with semi-customized information on the application process and colleges' net costs. The interventions also provide students with no-paperwork application fee waivers. The ECO Comprehensive (ECO-C) Intervention costs about $6 per student, and we find that it causes high-achieving, low-income students to apply and be admitted to more colleges, especially those with high graduation rates and generous instructional resources. The students respond to their enlarged opportunity sets by enrolling in colleges that have stronger academic records, higher graduation rates, and more generous resources. Their freshman grades are as good as the control students', despite the fact that the control students attend less selective colleges and therefore compete with peers whose incoming preparation is substantially inferior. Benefit-to-cost ratios for the ECO-C Intervention are extremely high, even under the most conservative assumptions. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Azurdia, Gilda; Freedman, Stephen; Hamilton, Gayle; Schultz, Caroline
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2013

    Many people do not save enough money to help them manage sudden losses of income or sudden increases in expenditures. Faced with the need to raise cash immediately, they often resort to alternative, high-interest sources of credit, such as payday loans and credit cards, that may trap them in a costly cycle of debt. Currently, few programs help low- and moderate-income individuals save for emergencies, and studies of the effects of such unrestricted, short-term savings programs are rare. 

    What would happen if low- and moderate-income individuals were offered an incen­tive to save, coupled with a convenient opportunity to take advantage of the in­centive? To find out, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) developed the SaveUSA program, a tax-time matched savings program, which is being replicated in additional sites by the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) and OFE. SaveUSA focuses on tax-time savings be­cause tax refunds, supported by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other credits, typically...

    Many people do not save enough money to help them manage sudden losses of income or sudden increases in expenditures. Faced with the need to raise cash immediately, they often resort to alternative, high-interest sources of credit, such as payday loans and credit cards, that may trap them in a costly cycle of debt. Currently, few programs help low- and moderate-income individuals save for emergencies, and studies of the effects of such unrestricted, short-term savings programs are rare. 

    What would happen if low- and moderate-income individuals were offered an incen­tive to save, coupled with a convenient opportunity to take advantage of the in­centive? To find out, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) developed the SaveUSA program, a tax-time matched savings program, which is being replicated in additional sites by the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) and OFE. SaveUSA focuses on tax-time savings be­cause tax refunds, supported by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other credits, typically constitute the largest source of cash that low- and moderate-income individuals receive at any one time. SaveUSA encourages eligible tax filers to deposit a portion of their tax refund directly into a matched savings account that they can later use to pay for unexpected or emergency expenses or for any other purpose. 

    Does this strategy work? To find out, MDRC is conducting a randomized control trial to test the effects of SaveUSA on a variety of outcomes. The evaluation will show whether short-term incentivized savings can lead to longer-term savings habits, reduce material hardships, and improve the overall financial well-being of participants. If the results are positive, they will support ongoing efforts to implement similar savings incentives, such as a current policy proposal to embed a “Financial Security Credit” in the federal tax code. 

    What Is the SaveUSA Program?

    SaveUSA replicates a program called $aveNYC that was piloted in New York City between 2008 and 2011. During 2009 and 2010, $aveNYC’s primary years of operation, the program enrolled an average of 1,255 tax filers per year. Over 90 percent of those enrollees deposited tax refund dollars in their $aveNYC savings account and nearly three-quarters of enrollees (or 80 percent of depositors) maintained their deposits for about a year and received the savings match. A study of $aveNYC conducted by the Center for Community Capital at the University of North Carolina found that when they entered the program, 18 percent of $aveNYC par­ticipants had no bank account and 26 percent reported having no savings. 

    The SaveUSA program was operated during the tax seasons of 2011 through 2013. It builds on the free tax-preparation services provided by participating Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) organizations in four cities: New York City, Tulsa, Newark, and San Antonio. SaveUSA offers both single filers and couples who file jointly the opportunity to open a SaveUSA account at a local financial institution by directly deposit­ing a portion of their tax refund into a special savings account. Participants earn a matching incentive payment if they leave their savings untouched for about one year. 

    To be eligible for the SaveUSA program, tax filers must be at least 18 years old and meet certain income requirements ($50,000 or less for filers with dependents and $25,000 or less for filers without dependents). When preparing their tax returns, SaveUSA participants instruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or state taxing agency to deposit at least $200 from their tax refund directly into a special savings ac­count. Participants also pledge to keep a certain amount of their initial deposit, from $200 to $1,000, in the account for approximately one year. Participants who fulfill this pledge receive a 50 percent savings match, up to $500. 

    Account holders whose balances drop below their pledge amounts at any time during the follow-up year lose their eligibility for a match, even if they subsequently replace the funds. They incur no further penalty for withdrawing the funds, however. 

    During the next tax season, all account holders who have their taxes prepared at a participat­ing VITA site — those who end up qualifying for a match and those who do not — may again deposit tax refund dollars directly into their SaveUSA accounts and become eligible to receive another 50 percent match. 

    This policy brief offers early implementation findings, including recruitment and account enrollment results, from MDRC’s evaluation of SaveUSA. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Wiedrich, Kasey; Griffin, Kate; Chilton, Mariana; Lehman, Gretchen
    Reference Type: Conference Paper
    Year: 2014

    Studies show that low-income families are more likely to be unbanked and “underbanked” than families with higher earnings. Lacking a bank account or depending on alternative financial services leads to significant financial barriers for low-income families that hinder economic growth and social mobility. This session will evaluate strategies that local and state human services agencies are testing to equip TANF recipients with the financial knowledge and resources they need to overcome barriers to financial security, including ACF’s Asset Initiative Partnership. Gretchen Lehman (Administration for Children and Families) will moderate this session.

    • Financial Counseling and Financial Access for the Financially Vulnerable

    Kasey Wiedrich (Corporation for Enterprise Development)

    The presentation examines financial management strategies among low-income families.  Two research studies are described: Children's HealthWatch and Witnesses to Hunger.

    • Building Economic Self-Sufficiency of TANF Clients Through Financial Education and Matched Savings

    ...

    Studies show that low-income families are more likely to be unbanked and “underbanked” than families with higher earnings. Lacking a bank account or depending on alternative financial services leads to significant financial barriers for low-income families that hinder economic growth and social mobility. This session will evaluate strategies that local and state human services agencies are testing to equip TANF recipients with the financial knowledge and resources they need to overcome barriers to financial security, including ACF’s Asset Initiative Partnership. Gretchen Lehman (Administration for Children and Families) will moderate this session.

    • Financial Counseling and Financial Access for the Financially Vulnerable

    Kasey Wiedrich (Corporation for Enterprise Development)

    The presentation examines financial management strategies among low-income families.  Two research studies are described: Children's HealthWatch and Witnesses to Hunger.

    • Building Economic Self-Sufficiency of TANF Clients Through Financial Education and Matched Savings

    Kate Griffin (Corporation for Enterprise Development)

    The presentation describes data from a financial education program for TANF recipients that provides training in budgeting and credit management.  The pilot was started in July 2013 with the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

    • Financial Management Strategies of TANF and SNAP Recipients: Lessons for Policy Makers and Administrators

    Mariana Chilton (Drexel University)

    The presentation describes a completed research project that looks at the impact of the AFCO financial counseling program for families leaving TANF and entering into a work-ready context.

    These presentations were given at the 2014 Welfare Research and Evaluation Conference (WREC).

  • Individual Author: Fraker, Thomas; Mamun, Arif; Manno, Michelle; Martinez, John; Reed, Debbie; Thompkins, Allison; Wittenburg, David
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    The Youth Transition Demonstration (YTD) is a large - scale demonstration and evaluation sponsored by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to improve understanding of how to help youth with disabilities reach their full economic potential. In particular, SSA is interested in testing promising approaches for helping young people with disabilities become more self - sufficient and less reliant on disability benefits. The YTD conceptual framework, which was based on best practices in facilitating youth transition, specified that the six projects that participated in the evaluation provide employment services (emphasizing paid competitive employment), benefits counseling, links to services available in the community, and other assistance to youth with disabilities and their families. Additionally, the youth who received those services were eligible for SSA waivers of certain benefit program rules, which allowed them to retain more of their disability benefits and health insurance while they worked for pay. Using a rigorous random assignment methodology, the YTD evaluation team is...

    The Youth Transition Demonstration (YTD) is a large - scale demonstration and evaluation sponsored by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to improve understanding of how to help youth with disabilities reach their full economic potential. In particular, SSA is interested in testing promising approaches for helping young people with disabilities become more self - sufficient and less reliant on disability benefits. The YTD conceptual framework, which was based on best practices in facilitating youth transition, specified that the six projects that participated in the evaluation provide employment services (emphasizing paid competitive employment), benefits counseling, links to services available in the community, and other assistance to youth with disabilities and their families. Additionally, the youth who received those services were eligible for SSA waivers of certain benefit program rules, which allowed them to retain more of their disability benefits and health insurance while they worked for pay. Using a rigorous random assignment methodology, the YTD evaluation team is assessing whether these services and incentives were effective in helping youth with disabilities achieve greater independence and economic self - sufficiency. The earliest of the evaluation projects began operations in 2006 and ended in 2009. The latest started in 2008 and ended in 2012.

    In this report, we present first - year evaluation findings for West Virginia Youth Works, which served youth ages 15 through 25 who were Social Security disability beneficiaries. While it will take several more years before we fully observe the transitions that the participants in this study make to adult life, early data from the evaluation provide rich information on how Youth Works operated and the differences it made in key outcomes for youth. Specifically, the report includes findings from our process analysis of Youth Works, including a description of the program model, and documentation of how the project was implemented and services were delivered. The report also includes impact findings, based on data collected 12 months after youth entered the evaluation, on the use of services, paid employment, educational progress, income from earnings and benefits, and attitudes and expectations. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Wood, Robert G.; Moore, Quinn; Clarkwest, Andrew; Killewald, Alexandra; Monahan, Shannon
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    The Building Strong Families (BSF) evaluation assessed the impacts of eight programs offering a similar model of healthy marriage and relationship skills and support services to interested low-income unmarried parents around the time of the birth of a child.  While many unmarried parents live together when their children are born, their relationships are often tenuous and most end within a few years of the child’s birth. Research suggests that children do better when raised by both of their parents in healthy environments.  The BSF program model included curricula-based group workshops on relationship skills; individual support from family coordinators; and assessment and referral to other needed services. The key question addressed through the BSF evaluation is whether the interventions improved the quality of unmarried parents’ relationships, increased the likelihood that they remained together, and improved the well-being of children. This report presents final impact results from data collected 36 months after couples enrolled in the study.  A separate technical supplement...

    The Building Strong Families (BSF) evaluation assessed the impacts of eight programs offering a similar model of healthy marriage and relationship skills and support services to interested low-income unmarried parents around the time of the birth of a child.  While many unmarried parents live together when their children are born, their relationships are often tenuous and most end within a few years of the child’s birth. Research suggests that children do better when raised by both of their parents in healthy environments.  The BSF program model included curricula-based group workshops on relationship skills; individual support from family coordinators; and assessment and referral to other needed services. The key question addressed through the BSF evaluation is whether the interventions improved the quality of unmarried parents’ relationships, increased the likelihood that they remained together, and improved the well-being of children. This report presents final impact results from data collected 36 months after couples enrolled in the study.  A separate technical supplement details the analytic approaches and includes additional analyses. (author abstract)

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