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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: Arno, Peter S.; Sohler, Nancy; Viola, Deborah; Schechter, Clyde
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2009

    The principal objective of our research is to examine whether the earned income tax credit (EITC), a broad-based income support program that has been shown to increase employment and income among poor working families, also improves their health and access to care. A finding that the EITC has a positive impact on the health of the American public may help guide deliberations about its future at the federal, state, and local levels. The authors contend that a better understanding of the relationship between major socioeconomic policies such as the EITC and the public's health will inform the fields of health and social policy in the pursuit of improving population health. (author abstract)

    The principal objective of our research is to examine whether the earned income tax credit (EITC), a broad-based income support program that has been shown to increase employment and income among poor working families, also improves their health and access to care. A finding that the EITC has a positive impact on the health of the American public may help guide deliberations about its future at the federal, state, and local levels. The authors contend that a better understanding of the relationship between major socioeconomic policies such as the EITC and the public's health will inform the fields of health and social policy in the pursuit of improving population health. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Meyer, Bruce D.; Rosenbaum, Dan T.
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2001

    During 1984-96 there were enormous changes in welfare and tax policy. In particular, there were large; expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Medicaid, changes in the Aid to Families with Dependent; Children (AFDC) program and related training and child care programs. Many of the program changes were intended to; encourage low income women to work. During this same time period there were unprecedented increases in the; employment of single mothers, particularly those with young children. In this paper, we first document these large; changes in policies and employment. We then examine if the policy changes are the reason for the large increases in; single mothers’ employment. We find evidence that a large share of the increase in work by single mothers can be; attributed to the EITC, with smaller shares for welfare benefit reductions, welfare waivers, changes in training programs,; and child care expansions. Our results also indicate that financial incentives through the tax and welfare systems have; substantial effects on single mothers’ employment decisions. (...

    During 1984-96 there were enormous changes in welfare and tax policy. In particular, there were large; expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Medicaid, changes in the Aid to Families with Dependent; Children (AFDC) program and related training and child care programs. Many of the program changes were intended to; encourage low income women to work. During this same time period there were unprecedented increases in the; employment of single mothers, particularly those with young children. In this paper, we first document these large; changes in policies and employment. We then examine if the policy changes are the reason for the large increases in; single mothers’ employment. We find evidence that a large share of the increase in work by single mothers can be; attributed to the EITC, with smaller shares for welfare benefit reductions, welfare waivers, changes in training programs,; and child care expansions. Our results also indicate that financial incentives through the tax and welfare systems have; substantial effects on single mothers’ employment decisions. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Azurdia, Gilda; Freedman, Stephen; Hamilton, Gayle; Schultz, Caroline
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2014

    SaveUSA, a voluntary program launched in 2011 in four cities (New York City, Tulsa, San Antonio, and Newark), encourages low- and moderate-income individuals to set aside money from their tax refund for savings. Tax filers at participating Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites can directly deposit all or a portion of their tax refund into a special savings account, set up by a bank or credit union, and pledge to save between $200 and $1,000 of their deposit for about a year. Money can be withdrawn from SaveUSA accounts at any time and for any purpose, but only those who maintain their initially pledged savings amount throughout a full year receive a 50 percent match on that amount. Account holders, irrespective of match receipt, can deposit tax refund dollars in subsequent years and become eligible to receive additional savings matches on their new tax refund deposits.

    This report presents findings on SaveUSA’s implementation in all four cities and its early effects on savings and other financial outcomes in two cities: New York City and Tulsa. In these latter...

    SaveUSA, a voluntary program launched in 2011 in four cities (New York City, Tulsa, San Antonio, and Newark), encourages low- and moderate-income individuals to set aside money from their tax refund for savings. Tax filers at participating Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites can directly deposit all or a portion of their tax refund into a special savings account, set up by a bank or credit union, and pledge to save between $200 and $1,000 of their deposit for about a year. Money can be withdrawn from SaveUSA accounts at any time and for any purpose, but only those who maintain their initially pledged savings amount throughout a full year receive a 50 percent match on that amount. Account holders, irrespective of match receipt, can deposit tax refund dollars in subsequent years and become eligible to receive additional savings matches on their new tax refund deposits.

    This report presents findings on SaveUSA’s implementation in all four cities and its early effects on savings and other financial outcomes in two cities: New York City and Tulsa. In these latter cities, a randomly selected half of the tax filers who were interested in SaveUSA in 2011 could open accounts (the “SaveUSA group”), but the other half could not (the control group). The report compares the savings and other financial behaviors of the two groups over time to estimate SaveUSA’s effects. The findings thus suggest the effects that savings policies structured similarly to SaveUSA might have.

    SaveUSA’s operation and evaluation are funded through the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a public/private partnership administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. This particular SIF project is led by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) in collaboration with MDRC. Matching funds required by the SIF were provided by several foundations and organizations. CEO, with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), which conceived and launched an early version of the model, leads SaveUSA operations; MDRC is conducting the program’s evaluation.

    Key Findings:

    •SaveUSA was implemented successfully in all four cities. During the first program year, individuals in the SaveUSA group directly deposited an average of $506 of their tax refunds into SaveUSA accounts.

    •About two-thirds of those in the SaveUSA group saved for about a year and received a first savings match, which averaged $291 among those who received it. About two-fifths of the SaveUSA group pledged to save part of their tax refund again in the program’s second year.

    •At the 18-month follow-up point, SaveUSA had increased the percentage of individuals with any short-term savings (by 7 percentage points) and increased the total amount of savings individuals held on average (by $512), compared with what they would have saved without the program. The program also had increased the proportion of those who expressed a continued commitment to save.

    •No effects were found on individuals’ amount of debt, material hardship, or other aspects of financial security over the 18-month follow-up period.

    A subsequent report in late 2015 will examine SaveUSA’s effects over 36 to 42 months and will present a much more complete assessment of whether SaveUSA can sustain savings and improve individuals’ overall financial well-being. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Sorensen, Elaine
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2010

    In 2006, New York became the first state to enact a new earned income tax credit for low-income parents who pay their child support in full. The credit is designed to keep parents from falling too deeply into poverty if they pay their child support in full and to encourage low-income noncustodial parents to work and pay their child support. During its first year, only 5,280 noncustodial parents received the tax credit, costing just over $2 million. This report identifies three reasons the take-up rate was so low and offers recommendations on how to increase participation in the future. (author abstract)

    In 2006, New York became the first state to enact a new earned income tax credit for low-income parents who pay their child support in full. The credit is designed to keep parents from falling too deeply into poverty if they pay their child support in full and to encourage low-income noncustodial parents to work and pay their child support. During its first year, only 5,280 noncustodial parents received the tax credit, costing just over $2 million. This report identifies three reasons the take-up rate was so low and offers recommendations on how to increase participation in the future. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Blank, Rebecca M.; Barr, Michael S.
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 2009

    One in four American adults doesn’t have a bank account. Low-income families lack access to many of the basic financial services middle-class families take for granted and are particularly susceptible to financial emergencies, unemployment, loss of a home, and uninsured medical problems. Insufficient Funds explores how institutional constraints and individual decisions combine to produce this striking disparity and recommends policies to help alleviate the problem.

    Mainstream financial services are both less available and more expensive for low-income households. High fees, minimum-balance policies, and the relative scarcity of banks in poor neighborhoods are key factors. Michael Barr reports the results of an in-depth study of financial behavior in 1,000 low- and moderate-income families in metropolitan Detroit. He finds that most poor households have bank accounts, but combine use of mainstream services with alternative options such as money orders, pawnshops, and payday lenders. Barr suggests that a tax credit for banks serving primarily disadvantaged customers could...

    One in four American adults doesn’t have a bank account. Low-income families lack access to many of the basic financial services middle-class families take for granted and are particularly susceptible to financial emergencies, unemployment, loss of a home, and uninsured medical problems. Insufficient Funds explores how institutional constraints and individual decisions combine to produce this striking disparity and recommends policies to help alleviate the problem.

    Mainstream financial services are both less available and more expensive for low-income households. High fees, minimum-balance policies, and the relative scarcity of banks in poor neighborhoods are key factors. Michael Barr reports the results of an in-depth study of financial behavior in 1,000 low- and moderate-income families in metropolitan Detroit. He finds that most poor households have bank accounts, but combine use of mainstream services with alternative options such as money orders, pawnshops, and payday lenders. Barr suggests that a tax credit for banks serving primarily disadvantaged customers could facilitate greater equality in the private financial sector.

    Drawing on evidence from behavioral economics, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir show that low-income individuals exhibit many of the same patterns and weaknesses in financial decision making as middle-class individuals and could benefit from many of the same financial aids. They argue that savings programs that automatically enroll participants and require them to actively opt out in order to leave the program could drastically increase savings ability. Ronald Mann demonstrates that significant changes in the credit market over the past fifteen years have allowed companies to expand credit to a larger share of low-income families. Mann calls for regulations on credit card companies that would require greater disclosure of actual interest rates and fees. Raphael Bostic and Kwan Lee find that while home ownership has risen dramatically over the past twenty years, elevated risks for low-income families—such as foreclosure—may well outweigh the benefits of owning a home.

    The authors ultimately argue that if we want to demand financial responsibility from low-income households, we have an obligation to assure that these families have access to the banking, credit, and savings institutions that are readily available to higher-income families. Insufficient Funds highlights where and how access is blocked and shows how government policy and individual decisions could combine to eliminate many of these barriers in the future. (author abstract) 

    Table of Contents

    Chapter 1: Savings, Assets, Credit, and Banking among Low-Income Households: Introduction and Overview - Michael Barr and Rebecca Blank

    Chapter 2: The Assets and Liabilities Held by Low-Income Families - John Karl Scholz and Ananth Seshadri

    Chapter 3: Financial Services, Saving, and Borrowing among Low- and Moderate-Income Households: Evidence from the Detroit Area Household Financial Services Survey - Michael Barr

    Chapter 4: Banking Low-Income Populations: Perspectives from South Africa - Daryl Collins and Jonathan Morduch 

    Chapter 5: Savings Policy and Decision Making in Low-Income Households - Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir

    Chapter 6: Using Financial Innovation to Support Savers: From Coercion to Excitement - Peter Tufano and Daniel Schneider

    Chapter 7: Individual Development Accounts and Asset-Building Policy: Lessons and Directions - Michael Sherraden 

    Chapter 8: Homeownership: America's Dream? - Raphael Bostic and Kwan Ok Lee

    Chapter 9: Patterns of Credit Card Use Among Low- and Moderate-Income Households - Ronald Mann

    Chapter 10: Immigrants' Access to Financial Services and Asset Accumulation - Una Okonkwo and Anna Paulson 

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