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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: Brooks, Jennifer; Duran, Angela; Medina, Jennifer
    Reference Type: Report, Stakeholder Resource
    Year: 2013

    The workforce development and asset-building fields share the goal of ensuring individuals have the tools to participate in, contribute to and benefit from the mainstream economy. Yet although they share a goal, each field approaches the challenge from a different angle. In general, workforce development providers help individuals navigate and succeed in the labor market by providing a range of services that build skills and human capital and connect them to jobs. A successful outcome for a workforce program is when a customer obtains steady employment that provides adequate income, and ideally, a promising career path. Asset-building providers, by contrast, focus on helping individuals navigate and succeed in the financial marketplace by providing a range of services that help individuals make the most of their income in both the short and long terms. These services, which focus on improving financial capability, helping individuals access appropriate and affordable financial products, building savings and avoiding predatory practices, are designed to help individuals build...

    The workforce development and asset-building fields share the goal of ensuring individuals have the tools to participate in, contribute to and benefit from the mainstream economy. Yet although they share a goal, each field approaches the challenge from a different angle. In general, workforce development providers help individuals navigate and succeed in the labor market by providing a range of services that build skills and human capital and connect them to jobs. A successful outcome for a workforce program is when a customer obtains steady employment that provides adequate income, and ideally, a promising career path. Asset-building providers, by contrast, focus on helping individuals navigate and succeed in the financial marketplace by providing a range of services that help individuals make the most of their income in both the short and long terms. These services, which focus on improving financial capability, helping individuals access appropriate and affordable financial products, building savings and avoiding predatory practices, are designed to help individuals build financial resilience that can help during times of crisis and build a nest egg that supports future goals. This guide is designed to explore the possibilities for workforce development agencies to integrate asset-building strategies into their already-robust programming to maximize the overall effectiveness of their programs. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Murphy-Erby, Yvette; Hamilton, Leah; Shobe, Marcia; Christy, Kameri; Hampton-Stover, Elena; Jordan, Shikkiah
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2013

    Many states are implementing asset development strategies to promote postsecondary education for low- to moderate-income families, realizing that limited education is a powerful predictor of poverty, and poverty mediates the likelihood of obtaining postsecondary education. Using demographic and qualitative data collected from two groups of low- to moderate-income parents (N = 24), this article highlights two programs that promote savings and increase post-secondary education for these children and families. The 21st Century Scholars Program targets youths, and the complementary Educational Development Accounts program targets their parents. This article also explores perspectives of the participants’ experiences, beliefs, and perceptions relative to savings and education and the success of their children in these areas. It concludes with implications for asset-building programs and policy whose aim is to assist low- to moderate-income families in achieving economic and educational mobility and implications for social welfare policy. (author abstract)

    Many states are implementing asset development strategies to promote postsecondary education for low- to moderate-income families, realizing that limited education is a powerful predictor of poverty, and poverty mediates the likelihood of obtaining postsecondary education. Using demographic and qualitative data collected from two groups of low- to moderate-income parents (N = 24), this article highlights two programs that promote savings and increase post-secondary education for these children and families. The 21st Century Scholars Program targets youths, and the complementary Educational Development Accounts program targets their parents. This article also explores perspectives of the participants’ experiences, beliefs, and perceptions relative to savings and education and the success of their children in these areas. It concludes with implications for asset-building programs and policy whose aim is to assist low- to moderate-income families in achieving economic and educational mobility and implications for social welfare policy. (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: Grinstein-Weiss, Michal; Sherraden, Michael; Gale, William G.; Rohe, William M.; Schreiner, Mark; Key, Clinton
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2013

    We examine the long-term effects of a 1998-2003 randomized experiment in Tulsa, Oklahoma with Individual Development Accounts that offered low-income households 2:1 matching funds for housing down payments. Prior work shows that, among households who rented in 1998, homeownership rates increased more through 2003 in the treatment group than for controls. We show that control group renters caught up rapidly with the treatment group after the experiment ended. As of 2009, the program had an economically small and statistically insignificant effect on homeownership rates, the number of years respondents owned homes, home equity, and foreclosure activity among baseline renters. (author abstract)

    We examine the long-term effects of a 1998-2003 randomized experiment in Tulsa, Oklahoma with Individual Development Accounts that offered low-income households 2:1 matching funds for housing down payments. Prior work shows that, among households who rented in 1998, homeownership rates increased more through 2003 in the treatment group than for controls. We show that control group renters caught up rapidly with the treatment group after the experiment ended. As of 2009, the program had an economically small and statistically insignificant effect on homeownership rates, the number of years respondents owned homes, home equity, and foreclosure activity among baseline renters. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Elliot III, William
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    “Creating a Financial Stake in College” is a four-part series of reports that focuses on the relationship between children’s savings and improving college success. This series examines: (1) why policymakers should care about savings, (2) the relationship between inequality and bank account ownership, (3) the connections between savings and college attendance, and (4) recommendations to refine children’s savings account proposals. This series of reports presents evidence from a set of empirical studies conducted by Elliott and colleagues on children’s savings research, with an emphasis on low-income children, relevant to large-scale policy proposals.

    Report II presents evidence that structural inequalities have created an unequal playing field for low-income families and their children to build assets. Children in families with higher incomes and greater assets are more likely to have relationships with banks and access to other institutional structures that support savings (Beverly & Sherraden, 1999; Sherraden, 1991). Because children’s savings is an important...

    “Creating a Financial Stake in College” is a four-part series of reports that focuses on the relationship between children’s savings and improving college success. This series examines: (1) why policymakers should care about savings, (2) the relationship between inequality and bank account ownership, (3) the connections between savings and college attendance, and (4) recommendations to refine children’s savings account proposals. This series of reports presents evidence from a set of empirical studies conducted by Elliott and colleagues on children’s savings research, with an emphasis on low-income children, relevant to large-scale policy proposals.

    Report II presents evidence that structural inequalities have created an unequal playing field for low-income families and their children to build assets. Children in families with higher incomes and greater assets are more likely to have relationships with banks and access to other institutional structures that support savings (Beverly & Sherraden, 1999; Sherraden, 1991). Because children’s savings is an important predictor of children’s educational outcomes (e.g., Elliott, 2011; Elliott & Beverly, 2011a, b), inequity in institutionalized opportunities to save and accumulate wealth among children may weaken the effectiveness of the education institution to act as the “great equalizer” in society. Thus, children’s savings accounts must be carefully structured to address these inequities for children from low-income families. An institutional theory of savings perspective is helpful to identify the types of structures and mechanisms that promote savings, some of which may be particularly relevant to an examination of how children learn to interact with their finances. (author abstract)

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