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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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The SSRC Library includes resources which may be available only via journal subscription. The SSRC may be able to provide users without subscription access to a particular journal with a single use copy of the full text.  Please email the SSRC with your request.

The SSRC Library collection is constantly growing and new research is added regularly. We welcome our users to submit a library item to help us grow our collection in response to your needs.


  • 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: 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)

  • Individual Author: Hsueh, JoAnn; Alderson, Desiree P. ; Lundquist, Erika; Michalopoulos, Charles; Gubits, Daniel; Fein, David; Knox, Virginia
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    The Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) evaluation was launched in 2003 to test the effectiveness of a skills-based relationship education program designed to help low-income married couples strengthen their relationships and, in turn, to support more stable and more nurturing home environments and more positive outcomes for parents and their children. The evaluation is led by MDRC, in collaboration with Abt Associates and other partners, and is sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    The SHM program is a voluntary, yearlong, relationship and marriage education program for low-income, married couples who have children or are expecting a child. The program provides group workshops based on structured curricula; supplemental activities to build on workshop themes; and family support services to address participation barriers, connect families with other services, and reinforce curricular themes. The study’s rigorous random assignment design compares outcomes for families who are offered SHM’s services with outcomes for a similar group of families who are not...

    The Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) evaluation was launched in 2003 to test the effectiveness of a skills-based relationship education program designed to help low-income married couples strengthen their relationships and, in turn, to support more stable and more nurturing home environments and more positive outcomes for parents and their children. The evaluation is led by MDRC, in collaboration with Abt Associates and other partners, and is sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    The SHM program is a voluntary, yearlong, relationship and marriage education program for low-income, married couples who have children or are expecting a child. The program provides group workshops based on structured curricula; supplemental activities to build on workshop themes; and family support services to address participation barriers, connect families with other services, and reinforce curricular themes. The study’s rigorous random assignment design compares outcomes for families who are offered SHM’s services with outcomes for a similar group of families who are not offered SHM’s services but can access other services. This report presents estimated impacts on the program’s targeted outcomes about one year after couples entered the study. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Tang, Sandra; Coley, Rebekah Levine; Votruba-Drzal, Elizabeth
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2012

    Conceptual models suggest that child, mother, family, and community factors are likely to affect families' choice of child care settings for their young children, yet little research has comprehensively tested such models among low-income families. This research assessed the type of early care experienced by low-income urban preschoolers (N=802) in the Three-City Study. Results revealed that in comparison to White mothers, Latina mothers were less likely to use Head Start or center-based care. In comparison to mothers who did not work, mothers who worked full-time, part-time, or who had regular work schedules had a higher likelihood of relying on non-maternal early care. Type of care used also varied by geographic location, suggesting that care availability and accessibility have primary roles in low-income families' care options. Future research and policy suggestions are discussed in light of these results. (author abstract)

    Conceptual models suggest that child, mother, family, and community factors are likely to affect families' choice of child care settings for their young children, yet little research has comprehensively tested such models among low-income families. This research assessed the type of early care experienced by low-income urban preschoolers (N=802) in the Three-City Study. Results revealed that in comparison to White mothers, Latina mothers were less likely to use Head Start or center-based care. In comparison to mothers who did not work, mothers who worked full-time, part-time, or who had regular work schedules had a higher likelihood of relying on non-maternal early care. Type of care used also varied by geographic location, suggesting that care availability and accessibility have primary roles in low-income families' care options. Future research and policy suggestions are discussed in light of these results. (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)

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