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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: Greenberg, David; Dechausay, Nadine; Fraker, Carolyn
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2011

    Opportunity NYC-Family Rewards was an experimental, privately funded, conditional cash transfer (CCT) program that attempted to help families break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. As suggested by their name, CCTs provide cash assistance conditioned on families’ efforts to improve their “human capital” — the skills that may reduce their poverty over the long term. Family Rewards, which provided payments for undertaking a range of activities and reaching certain goals related to health, education, and employment, was the first implementation of a comprehensive CCT model in a developed country. Such programs have grown rapidly across lower and middle-income countries and have met with some important successes. Family Rewards was one of 40 initiatives sponsored by New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), a unit within the Office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that is responsible for testing innovative strategies to reduce the number of New Yorkers who are living in poverty. Two national, New York-based nonprofit organizations — MDRC, a nonpartisan social policy...

    Opportunity NYC-Family Rewards was an experimental, privately funded, conditional cash transfer (CCT) program that attempted to help families break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. As suggested by their name, CCTs provide cash assistance conditioned on families’ efforts to improve their “human capital” — the skills that may reduce their poverty over the long term. Family Rewards, which provided payments for undertaking a range of activities and reaching certain goals related to health, education, and employment, was the first implementation of a comprehensive CCT model in a developed country. Such programs have grown rapidly across lower and middle-income countries and have met with some important successes. Family Rewards was one of 40 initiatives sponsored by New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), a unit within the Office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that is responsible for testing innovative strategies to reduce the number of New Yorkers who are living in poverty. Two national, New York-based nonprofit organizations — MDRC, a nonpartisan social policy research firm, and Seedco, a workforce and economic development organization — worked in close partnership with CEO to design the demonstration. Seedco, together with a small network of local community-based organizations, operated Family Rewards, while MDRC managed the overall demonstration and is conducting the evaluation. A consortium of private funders supported the project. Family Rewards ended in August of 2010 after a planned, three-year program period, although its evaluation is continuing. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Sprague, Aleta
    Reference Type: Stakeholder Resource
    Year: 2013

    Roughly half the private workforce does not have access to defined contribution retirement plans because their employers choose not to offer one. Still, for many with access, their accumulated assets will not adequately replace their incomes. Without policy changes, the transition to a 401(k)-based system is on its way to becoming a failed social experiment. The state of California has recently embarked on crafting a response. In September 2012, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 1234, which created the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program. California Secure Choice (“CSC”) would establish automatic retirement accounts for all workers in the private sector who do not otherwise have access to a workplace retirement plan. This issue brief explores the inequities and shortcomings of the current retirement system; outlines the effort in California to reduce these inequities through universal accounts; and offers additional policy considerations for both the California initiative and the national retirement savings framework. (authors abstract)

    Roughly half the private workforce does not have access to defined contribution retirement plans because their employers choose not to offer one. Still, for many with access, their accumulated assets will not adequately replace their incomes. Without policy changes, the transition to a 401(k)-based system is on its way to becoming a failed social experiment. The state of California has recently embarked on crafting a response. In September 2012, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 1234, which created the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program. California Secure Choice (“CSC”) would establish automatic retirement accounts for all workers in the private sector who do not otherwise have access to a workplace retirement plan. This issue brief explores the inequities and shortcomings of the current retirement system; outlines the effort in California to reduce these inequities through universal accounts; and offers additional policy considerations for both the California initiative and the national retirement savings framework. (authors abstract)

  • Individual Author: Thaler, Richard H.; Benartzi, Shlomo
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2004

    As firms switch from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans, employees bear more responsibility for making decisions about how much to save. The employees who fail to join the plan or who participate at a very low level appear to be saving at less than the predicted life cycle savings rates. Behavioral explanations for this behavior stress bounded rationality and self-control and suggest that at least some of the low-saving households are making a mistake and would welcome aid in making decisions about their saving. In this paper, we propose such a prescriptive savings program, called Save More Tomorrow(TM) (hereafter, the SMarT program). The essence of the program is straightforward: people commit in advance to allocating a portion of their future salary increases toward retirement savings. We report evidence on the first three implementations of the SMarT program. Our key findings, from the first implementation, which has been in place for four annual raises, are as follows: (1) a high proportion 8 percent) of those offered the plan joined, (2) the vast majority...

    As firms switch from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans, employees bear more responsibility for making decisions about how much to save. The employees who fail to join the plan or who participate at a very low level appear to be saving at less than the predicted life cycle savings rates. Behavioral explanations for this behavior stress bounded rationality and self-control and suggest that at least some of the low-saving households are making a mistake and would welcome aid in making decisions about their saving. In this paper, we propose such a prescriptive savings program, called Save More Tomorrow(TM) (hereafter, the SMarT program). The essence of the program is straightforward: people commit in advance to allocating a portion of their future salary increases toward retirement savings. We report evidence on the first three implementations of the SMarT program. Our key findings, from the first implementation, which has been in place for four annual raises, are as follows: (1) a high proportion 8 percent) of those offered the plan joined, (2) the vast majority of those enrolled in the SMarT plan (80 percent) remained in it through the fourth pay raise, and (3) the average saving rates for SMarT program participants increased from 3.5 percent to 13.6 percent over the course of 40 months. The results suggest that behavioral economics can be used to design effective prescriptive programs for important economic decisions. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Richburg-Hayes, Lashawn; Anzelone, Caitlin; Dechausay, Nadine; Datta, Saugato; Fiorillo, Alexandra; Potok, Louis; Darling, Matthew; Balz, John
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2014

    Insights from behavioral economics, which combines findings from psychology and economics, suggest that a deeper understanding of decision-making and behavior could improve human services program design and outcomes. Research has shown that small changes in the environment can facilitate behaviors and decisions that are in people’s best interest. However, there has been relatively little exploration of the potential application of this science to complex, large-scale human services programs.

    This report, from the early stages of OPRE’s Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, provides an overview of behavioral economics, presents an approach to applying behavioral economics to social programs, shares insights from three case studies in the BIAS project, and concludes with some early lessons that have emerged from the work and next steps for the BIAS project. Additionally, a separate technical supplement to the report provides a description of 12 commonly applied behavioral interventions identified through a review of the literature. (author...

    Insights from behavioral economics, which combines findings from psychology and economics, suggest that a deeper understanding of decision-making and behavior could improve human services program design and outcomes. Research has shown that small changes in the environment can facilitate behaviors and decisions that are in people’s best interest. However, there has been relatively little exploration of the potential application of this science to complex, large-scale human services programs.

    This report, from the early stages of OPRE’s Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, provides an overview of behavioral economics, presents an approach to applying behavioral economics to social programs, shares insights from three case studies in the BIAS project, and concludes with some early lessons that have emerged from the work and next steps for the BIAS project. Additionally, a separate technical supplement to the report provides a description of 12 commonly applied behavioral interventions identified through a review of the literature. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Karlan, Dean; Zinman, Jonathan
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    Mounting evidence suggests that behavioral factors depress wealth accumulation.  Although much research and policy focuses on asset accumulation, for many households debt decumulation is more efficient.   Yet the mass market for debt reduction services is thin.  So we develop and pilot test Borrow Less Tomorrow (BoLT), a behavioral approach to debt reduction that combines a simple decision aid, social commitment, and reminders.  Results from a sample of free tax-preparation clients with eligible debt in Tulsa (N=465) indicate strong demand for debt reduction: 41% of those offered BoLT used it to make a plan to accelerate debt repayment.  Using random assignment to BoLT offers, we find weak evidence that the BoLT package offered reduces credit card debt. (author abstract)

    Mounting evidence suggests that behavioral factors depress wealth accumulation.  Although much research and policy focuses on asset accumulation, for many households debt decumulation is more efficient.   Yet the mass market for debt reduction services is thin.  So we develop and pilot test Borrow Less Tomorrow (BoLT), a behavioral approach to debt reduction that combines a simple decision aid, social commitment, and reminders.  Results from a sample of free tax-preparation clients with eligible debt in Tulsa (N=465) indicate strong demand for debt reduction: 41% of those offered BoLT used it to make a plan to accelerate debt repayment.  Using random assignment to BoLT offers, we find weak evidence that the BoLT package offered reduces credit card debt. (author abstract)

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