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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: 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: Coley, Rebekah Levine; Schindler, Holly S.
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2008

    Objective . This study assessed the supposition that fathers' parenting and economic contributions help to support maternal and family functioning. Design . Using longitudinal data from a representative sample of low-income families with young children (N = 402), semidifference models assessed whether fathers' parenting, cash, and in-kind contributions predicted maternal functioning (mothers' psychological distress and parenting stress) and family functioning (cognitive stimulation and family routines). Results . Increases in fathers' parenting contributions predicted declines in maternal psychological distress and parenting stress. Fathers' cash and in-kind contributions showed limited relations to maternal and family functioning. Interactions by fathers' residence status found few significant differences in links between resident and nonresident fathers. Conclusions . These results add empirical support to...

    Objective . This study assessed the supposition that fathers' parenting and economic contributions help to support maternal and family functioning. Design . Using longitudinal data from a representative sample of low-income families with young children (N = 402), semidifference models assessed whether fathers' parenting, cash, and in-kind contributions predicted maternal functioning (mothers' psychological distress and parenting stress) and family functioning (cognitive stimulation and family routines). Results . Increases in fathers' parenting contributions predicted declines in maternal psychological distress and parenting stress. Fathers' cash and in-kind contributions showed limited relations to maternal and family functioning. Interactions by fathers' residence status found few significant differences in links between resident and nonresident fathers. Conclusions . These results add empirical support to conceptual models delineating indirect pathways by which parental support may influence children. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Bachman, Heather J.; Coley, Rebekah L.; Carrano, Jennifer
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2012

    The present study investigated the association of family structure and maternal partnership instability patterns with adolescents' behavioral and emotional well-being among urban low-income families. Analyses employed data from the Three-City Study to track maternal partnerships over the youth's life span, linking longitudinal family structure and transition patterns to adolescent well-being (N = 2305). Families were classified into nine mutually exclusive longitudinal partnership groups based on current status at wave 3 (single, married, or cohabiting) and the longevity of that status: always (since adolescent's birth with no transitions), stable (lasting two years or more, preceded by transitions), or new (transpiring in the past 2 years). Adolescents in the always married group displayed less delinquency and externalizing problems, according to both youth and mother reports, than peers in always single-parent or newly married households. In contrast, youth in always cohabiting households had higher maternal ratings of internalizing problems and youth with newly cohabiting...

    The present study investigated the association of family structure and maternal partnership instability patterns with adolescents' behavioral and emotional well-being among urban low-income families. Analyses employed data from the Three-City Study to track maternal partnerships over the youth's life span, linking longitudinal family structure and transition patterns to adolescent well-being (N = 2305). Families were classified into nine mutually exclusive longitudinal partnership groups based on current status at wave 3 (single, married, or cohabiting) and the longevity of that status: always (since adolescent's birth with no transitions), stable (lasting two years or more, preceded by transitions), or new (transpiring in the past 2 years). Adolescents in the always married group displayed less delinquency and externalizing problems, according to both youth and mother reports, than peers in always single-parent or newly married households. In contrast, youth in always cohabiting households had higher maternal ratings of internalizing problems and youth with newly cohabiting mothers reported higher psychological distress than peers in similar stability groups with single or married mothers. Overall, several potential explanatory processes for the family structure and stability patterns surfaced: married parent families reported less economic hardship, more family routines and father involvement, and less maternal psychological distress and parenting stress than their single and cohabiting counterparts. Policy implications of these findings are discussed. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Hendey, Leah; McKernan, Signe-Mary; Woo, Beadsie
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    This report looks closely at what happened to assets, debts and home equity for families living in low-income neighborhoods during the Great Recession, using data from the longitudinal Making Connections Survey. We find that both average savings and debt amounts increased between 2005/06 and 2008/09, but asset and debt levels remained lower for vulnerable families, and low-income families disproportionally lost equity during the crisis. Yet even in 2008/09, home equity was substantial and an important component of wealth ($66,000, more than four times as much as families had in savings) for the nearly half of families who were homeowners. (author abstract)

    This report looks closely at what happened to assets, debts and home equity for families living in low-income neighborhoods during the Great Recession, using data from the longitudinal Making Connections Survey. We find that both average savings and debt amounts increased between 2005/06 and 2008/09, but asset and debt levels remained lower for vulnerable families, and low-income families disproportionally lost equity during the crisis. Yet even in 2008/09, home equity was substantial and an important component of wealth ($66,000, more than four times as much as families had in savings) for the nearly half of families who were homeowners. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Hendey, Leah; Woo, Beadsie; Signe-Mary, McKernan
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    Using longitudinal Making Connections Survey data on 2,500 families in low-income neighborhoods, this fact sheet finds that access to credit and residents’ perceptions of their neighborhood are all related to wealth holdings, even after controlling for household characteristics. Residents who believed their neighborhood had shared values increased their total debt and equity from 2005/06 to 2008/09. High rates of subprime lending were associated with less saving and borrowing, perhaps signaling less access to credit. Our findings suggest that both household and place characteristics matter to wealth families accrue and illustrate the importance of paying attention to place and local conditions. (author abstract)

    Using longitudinal Making Connections Survey data on 2,500 families in low-income neighborhoods, this fact sheet finds that access to credit and residents’ perceptions of their neighborhood are all related to wealth holdings, even after controlling for household characteristics. Residents who believed their neighborhood had shared values increased their total debt and equity from 2005/06 to 2008/09. High rates of subprime lending were associated with less saving and borrowing, perhaps signaling less access to credit. Our findings suggest that both household and place characteristics matter to wealth families accrue and illustrate the importance of paying attention to place and local conditions. (author abstract)

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