We examined households’ dynamic patterns of net worth accumulation between 1999 and 2009 and asked whether these patterns related to the financial health of young adults growing up in those households. Two patterns of net worth emerged—the first remained high and stable and the second experienced a precipitous decline between 2007 and 2009. Young adults who grew up in households with high and stable net worth also experienced the greatest benefit in financial health. Given wealth losses in the wake of the Great Recession and the ripple effects those losses may have had—and may continue to have—on households and their children, policies that stimulate wealth accumulation may be feasible and timely strategies for improving financial health.
Friedline, T., Nam, I., & Loke, V. (2014). Households' net worth accumulation patterns and young adults' financial well-being: Ripple effects of the Great Recession? Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 35, 390-410.
This study examines savings from childhood to young adulthood with a sample of 14,223 individuals from the 1996 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). We employed a cohort sequential accelerated latent growth model that combined a series of cohorts to represent a common developmental trajectory spanning 19 years—ages 16–35—and accounted for relevant covariates. Descriptively, the proportions of savings account ownership increased steadily between ages 16 and 30 and then leveled off. In other words, a critical time for intervention may occur between ages 16 and 30 when the proportion of account ownership is increasing. Proportions of savings accumulation also rose steadily, with a mean low of $636 between ages 16 and 20 to a mean high of $1,160 between ages 31 and 35. Gender, race, employment status, and household income and net worth were associated with initial variability in savings at ages 16–20 and rate of change in savings over time through age 35. Results can inform policies and programs that open savings accounts for children as a way of helping them remain financially secure across their life course.
Friedline, T., & Nam, I. (2014). Savings from ages 16 to 35: A test to inform Child Development Account policy. Poverty & Public Policy, 6(1), 46–70.
Postsecondary education costs in the United States today are rising with an increasing shift from societal responsibility to individual burden, thereby driving greater student borrowing. Evidence suggests that (i) such student debt may have undesirable educational effects and potentially jeopardize household balance sheets and (ii) student loans may better support educational attainment and economic mobility if accompanied by other, non-repayable financial awards. However, given declines in need-based aid and falling state support for postsecondary costs, policymakers and parents alike have failed to produce a compelling complement to debt-dependent financial aid that is capable of improving outcomes and forestalling assumption of ever-increasing student debt for a majority of U.S. households. This article, which relies on longitudinal data from the Educational Longitudinal Study, finds parental college savings may be an important protective factor in reducing debt assumption. However, several other factors increase the likelihood students will borrow: perceiving financial aid as necessary for college attendance, expecting to borrow to finance higher education, having moderate income, and attending a for-profit college. After controlling for student and school variables, the authors find that parental college savings increase a student’s chance of accumulating lower debt (less than $2,000) compared with students lacking such savings. Policy innovations to increase parental college savings—such as children’s savings accounts—could be an important piece of the response to the student debt problem in the United States.
Elliott, W., Lewis, M., Nam, I., & Grinstein-Weiss, M. (2014). Student loan debt: Can parent's college savings help? Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Review, 96 (4), 331-57.
In this study, the authors use the Survey of Consumer Finances to determine whether student loans are associated with household net worth. They find that median 2009 net worth ($117,700) for households with no outstanding student loan debt is nearly three times higher than for households with outstanding student loan debt ($42,800). Further, multivariate statistics indicate that households with outstanding student loan debt and a median 2007 net worth of $128,828 incur a loss of about 54 percent of net worth in 2009 compared with households with similar net worth levels but no student loan debt over the same period. The main policy implication of this study is that outstanding student debt may jeopardize the short-run financial health of households. However, this topic is complex and more research is needed before suggesting policy prescriptions.
Elliott, W., & Nam, I. (2013). Is student debt jeopardizing the short-term financial health of U.S. households. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Review, 95(5), 1-20.
Welfare Based on Assets, a Way to Smooth Out Economic Instability and Develop Children's Human Capital is a four-part series of reports that focuses on the relationship between economic instability (i.e., income shocks, asset shocks, home loss, and asset poverty) and children's human capital development. Collectively, these reports build on the compelling observation that the pattern low-income families walk into is a present time oriented or consumption based pattern of behavior; in contrast, the pattern higher income families walk into is future oriented or asset based. In this first paper we find that between 2005 and 2009 the probability of a low-income child living through an income shock is between 43% (major shock) and 55% (minor shock). In contrast, the chance of a high-income child experiencing an income shock is between 6% (major shock) and 15% (minor shock) during the same period. We also find that the probability that a child will experience a net worth asset shock close to doubles for a child living in a black or low-incom
Elliott, W., Nam, I., and Friedline, T. (2013). Probability of living through a period of economic instability. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(3), p. 453-460.
This is paper four of four in the Small-Dollar Children's Savings Account series, which studies the relationship between children's small-dollar savings accounts and college enrollment and graduation. This series of papers examines three important research questions using different subsamples: (a) Are children with savings of their own more likely to attend or graduate from college? (b) Does dosage (i.e., having no account, only basic savings, savings designated for school [of less than $1, $1 to $499, or $500 or more]) matte? And (c) is having savings designated for school more predictive than having basic savings alone? In this study we use a sample of children who expect to graduate college prior to leaving high school as a way of looking at wilt. In this study “wilt” occurs when a child who expects to graduate from college while in high school does not graduate college by 2009. Using propensity score weighted data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and its supplements we created multi-treatment dosages of savings accounts and amounts to answer the previous questions. We find that in the aggregate children who expect to graduate college prior to leaving high school (high-expectation children) and who designate savings for school of $500 or more are about two times more likely to graduate college than high-expectation children with no account. High-expectation low- and moderate-income (LMI) children who designate school savings of $1 to $499 and $500 or more are about three times more likely to graduate college than LMI children with no account. Further, high-expectation black children who have school savings of $500 or more are about two and half times more likely to graduate from college than their counterparts with no savings account.
Elliott, W., Song, H-a, and Nam, I. (2013). Small-dollar accounts, children's college outcomes and wilt. Children and Youth Services Review, 35 (3), p. 535-547.
This is paper two of four in the small-dollar children's savings account series in this issue that examines the relationship between children's small-dollar savings accounts and college enrollment and graduation. This series of papers uses different subsamples to examine three important research questions: (a) Are children with savings of their own more likely to attend or graduate from college; (b) Does dose (no account, only basic savings, savings designated for school of less than $1, $1 to $499, or $500 or more) matter; and (c) Is designating savings for school more predictive than having basic savings alone. Using propensity score weighted data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and its supplements we created multi-treatment doses of savings accounts and amounts to answer these questions separately for children from low- and moderate-income (below $50,000; n = 512) and high income ($50,000 or above; n = 345) households. We find that low- and moderate-income children may be more likely to enroll in and graduate from college when they have small-dollar savings accounts with money designated for school. A low- and moderate-income child who has school savings of $1 to $499 prior to reaching college age is over three times more likely to enroll in college and four times more likely to graduate from college than a child with no savings account. These findings lead to policy implications that are also discussed.
Elliott, W., Song, H-a, and Nam, I. (2013). Small-dollar children’s saving accounts and children's college outcomes by income level. Children and Youth Services Review, 35 (3), p. 560-571.
This is paper three of four in the Small-Dollar Children Accounts series that studies the relationship between children's small dollar savings accounts and college enrollment and graduation. The series uses different subsamples to examine three important research questions: (a) Are children with savings of their own more likely to attend or graduate from college? (b) Does dosage (no account, only basic savings, savings designated for school of less than $1, $1 to $499, or $500 or more) matter? And (c) is designating for school more predictive of college enrollment or graduation than having basic undesignated savings alone? Using propensity score weighted data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and its supplements we created multi-treatment dosages of savings accounts and amounts to answer these questions separately for black (n = 404) and white (n = 453) children. White children's savings are not significantly related to their college outcomes. Differently, compared to black children without savings accounts, black children are three times more likely to enroll in college when they have school savings of less than $1 and six times more likely when they have school savings of $1 to $499. Further, black children with school savings of $1 to $499 are four times more likely to graduate from college and black children with school savings of $500 or more are three-and-a-half times more likely to graduate from college, compared to those with no savings account. We suggest Child Development Accounts (CDAs) may be a promising tool for helping black children get to and through college.
Freidline, T., Elliott, W., and Nam, I. (2013). Small-dollar children’s savings accounts and children's college outcomes by race. Children and Youth Services Review, 35 (3), p. 548-559.
Descriptive data indicate that 62% of White young adults between the ages of 17 and 23 years were on course (i.e., either in college or have graduated from college) in 2007, compared with only 37% of Black young adults. Given this, finding novel and promising ways to promote college progress among Black young adults, in particular, is a growing concern for policy makers. Controlling for a number of factors, the authors find that young adults who have school savings as adolescents are more likely to be on course than young adults who did not have school savings regardless of race. The authors conclude that policies that help parents and adolescents accumulate savings may be a simple and effective strategy for helping keep young adults “on course” in their college education, while taking on less debt.
Elliott, W. and Nam, I.* (2012). Direct effects of assets and savings on the college progress of Black young adults. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(1), 89-108.
In this study we examine predictors of adolescents' savings account ownership and use of mental accounting with a nationally representative, longitudinal sample of 744 adolescents ages 12 to 15 using Panel Study of Income Dynamics and Child Development Supplement data. We find sizable savings gaps along class lines. Further, findings suggest adolescents are more likely to have savings and use mental accounting when their parents have higher levels of education and have savings for them. Given that parents' education level and parents' savings for their child are directly related to adolescents' own savings, we suggest that traditional banking markets may not be able to equalize the advantage provided by having savings as an adolescent.
Friedline, T.*, Elliott, W., and Nam, I. (2012). Predicting savings and mental accounting among adolescents: The case of college. Children & Youth Services Review, 34(9), 1884-1895.
This paper examines the progression of savings between adolescence and young adulthood. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we ask whether adolescents with a savings account and parents who have assets significantly predict having a savings account and the amount saved in young adulthood. Descriptive statistics reveal that adolescents have savings accounts more often when they are White, employed, and live in households where the head is married, has more education, and owns assets. Propensity score analyses provide evidence confirming that adolescents with savings accounts are more likely to have savings accounts as young adults. There is some evidence to suggest that adolescents whose parents have savings on their behalf and higher net worth are more likely to have more saved as young adults. Findings suggest that parents may play an important role in modeling saving habits to adolescents. Furthermore, if our findings regarding adolescents’ savings accounts are confirmed in future research, this study suggests that having a savings account in adolescence may lead to an increased likelihood of having a savings account in young adulthood.
Friedline, T.* Elliott, W., and Nam, I.* (2011). Predicting savings in young adulthood: The role of adolescent savings. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 2(1), 1-22.