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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: 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: Fein, David J.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2009

    A number of leading marriage and relationship education programs encourage couples to value and to understand the benefits of spending time together, as it is an important condition for a flourishing relationship. There has been some concern that poor couples may have less time and energy for each other than other couples — and less time and energy to attend relationship education programs — because of the demands they face simply to meet basic needs. Using data from the 2003 American Time Use Survey (ATUS), this paper provides the national estimates of time spent together by married parents at varying levels of income and education. The sample includes 5,729 married parents who were living together with one or more children under age 18.

    Results show that economically disadvantaged couples spend slightly more, rather than less, time together than nondisadvantaged ones, and that they spend more of the time they are together in leisure activities (largely watching television). The edge in total hours with spouse vanishes in multivariate analyses controlling for differences...

    A number of leading marriage and relationship education programs encourage couples to value and to understand the benefits of spending time together, as it is an important condition for a flourishing relationship. There has been some concern that poor couples may have less time and energy for each other than other couples — and less time and energy to attend relationship education programs — because of the demands they face simply to meet basic needs. Using data from the 2003 American Time Use Survey (ATUS), this paper provides the national estimates of time spent together by married parents at varying levels of income and education. The sample includes 5,729 married parents who were living together with one or more children under age 18.

    Results show that economically disadvantaged couples spend slightly more, rather than less, time together than nondisadvantaged ones, and that they spend more of the time they are together in leisure activities (largely watching television). The edge in total hours with spouse vanishes in multivariate analyses controlling for differences in hours worked between low-income and other couples. Family composition and race-ethnicity also display marked associations with couple time. Couples with young children (under age 6) spend more time together, but less time alone together, than couples without young children. Black couples spend less time together than white couples, particularly after a new birth. Compared with whites, Latino couples also spend less time together, and more of the time they are together is spent with their children. The paper notes a number of implications for emerging marriage programs. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Moffitt, Robert ; Roff, Jennifer
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2000

    Women who have left TANF in three cities--Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio--have an average employment rate of 63 percent after leaving welfare, a rate similar to those found in studies of welfare leavers in many other states. But this average obscures a large amount of variation across different groups of women, some of which have done much better than average and some of whom have done much worse. Women with lower levels of education, with younger children, who are in poor health, and who are themselves young have considerably lower employment rates and postwelfare income levels than women with greater levels of education, better health status, with older children, and who are older. Outcomes also differ among those leavers with a longer history of welfare dependence, a group not examined in other studies. The employment and, especially, income outcomes among these leavers are considerably worse than the average. Leavers who have been sanctioned also do much worse after leaving the rolls than those not sanctioned. These large differences in outcomes for former welfare...

    Women who have left TANF in three cities--Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio--have an average employment rate of 63 percent after leaving welfare, a rate similar to those found in studies of welfare leavers in many other states. But this average obscures a large amount of variation across different groups of women, some of which have done much better than average and some of whom have done much worse. Women with lower levels of education, with younger children, who are in poor health, and who are themselves young have considerably lower employment rates and postwelfare income levels than women with greater levels of education, better health status, with older children, and who are older. Outcomes also differ among those leavers with a longer history of welfare dependence, a group not examined in other studies. The employment and, especially, income outcomes among these leavers are considerably worse than the average. Leavers who have been sanctioned also do much worse after leaving the rolls than those not sanctioned. These large differences in outcomes for former welfare recipients should be examined by policy-makers when they consider reforms to assist those who have difficulty attaining self-sufficiency off the welfare rolls. (author introduction)

  • Individual Author: Miller-Gaubert, Jennifer; Knox, Virginia; Alderson, Desiree; Dalton, Christopher; Fletcher, Kate; McCormick, Meghan D.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2010

    This report presents early implementation and operational lessons from the Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) evaluation. Funded by the Administration for Children and Families, SHM uses a rigorous research design to test the effectiveness of a new approach to improving outcomes for low-income children: strengthening the marriages and relationships of their parents as a foundation for family well-being. It also uses implementation research to document and assess how the organizations that were selected to be in the study are implementing the SHM model. The SHM model is for low-income married couples and includes three components: relationship and marriage education workshops that teach strategies for managing conflict and effective communication, supplemental activities that build on workshop themes and skills through educational and social events, and family support services that pair couples with specialized staff who facilitate participation and connect couples with needed services. In the first year of program implementation, SHM providers focused on three main tasks:...

    This report presents early implementation and operational lessons from the Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) evaluation. Funded by the Administration for Children and Families, SHM uses a rigorous research design to test the effectiveness of a new approach to improving outcomes for low-income children: strengthening the marriages and relationships of their parents as a foundation for family well-being. It also uses implementation research to document and assess how the organizations that were selected to be in the study are implementing the SHM model. The SHM model is for low-income married couples and includes three components: relationship and marriage education workshops that teach strategies for managing conflict and effective communication, supplemental activities that build on workshop themes and skills through educational and social events, and family support services that pair couples with specialized staff who facilitate participation and connect couples with needed services. In the first year of program implementation, SHM providers focused on three main tasks: developing effective marketing and recruitment strategies, keeping couples engaged in the program, and building management structures and systems. Lessons in these three areas from implementation analyses are the focus of this report. (author abstract)

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