Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion

  1. Can Post Offices Increase Access to Financial Services?

    Postal banking through the US Postal Service has been recommended as one option for improving the availability of safe and affordable financial products and services in lower-income and minority communities. Advocates of postal banking suggest that post offices have maintained their presence in communities vacated by banks and credit unions and inundated by alternative financial service (AFS) providers. However, there have been few attempts to analyze data in order to test this assumption. Using financial services and community demographic data for 31,489 zip codes across the US, we compared the concentrations or densities of bank and credit union branches, AFS, and post offices.

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    Citation

    Despard, M., Friedline, T., & Refior, K. (2017). Can post offices increase access to financial services? A geographic investigation of financial services availability. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, & Inclusion (AEDI).

    Authors

    Despard, Mathieu R., Friedline, Terri, Refior, Kevin

    Financial Inclusion Report Year 2017

  2. Contribution Activity and Asset Accumulation in a Universal Children’s Savings Account Program

    San Francisco’s Kindergarten-to-College (K2C) is a Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program that provides a savings account to all kindergartners in the public school system to save for postsecondary education. This study is the first analysis of families’ contributions to the K2C accounts and how those contributions vary by student characteristic and school context. Following a review of existing research regarding college saving by American families in general and, specifically, by those participating in other CSA programs, this study examines contributions as one manifestation of families’ engagement with the K2C accounts. In addition, the study explores how the particular features of the K2C program manifest in asset accumulation and contribution activity, as well as how individual and school-level characteristics may influence observed interactions with the K2C accounts. This research provides insights into a CSA program that is the oldest and one of the largest in the country, and it offers lessons for policymakers and CSA administrators considering interventions to encourage college saving among families with school-age children.

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    Authors

    William Elliott, Melinda Lewis, Megan O'Brien, Christina LiCalsi, Leah Brown, Natalie Tucker, Nicholas Sorensen

    CSA Report Year 2017

  3. Do Metropolitan Areas have Equal Access to Banking?

    Metropolitan areas are places where the majority of residents in the US live and work. Each of these areas has unique features regarding education, employment, public transit options, arts, recreation, and worship opportunities. Each metropolitan area also has a unique financial services landscape – a mix of both mainstream and alternative financial services, which may offer households different types of products and services to help manage resources and make ends meet.

    While prior research has examined the geo-spatial distribution of mainstream and alternative financial services within particular cities and metropolitan areas, little is known about how the availability of these services varies across metropolitan areas for the entire country. For instance, what is the availability of financial services in the Kansas City area, where the “snowbelt” city’s poverty rate is slightly higher than the national average, 30% of residents are Black, the population is growing, and the Federal Reserve and FDIC both have branches? And, how does the availability of Kansas City area’s financial services compare to that of the Detroit area, where the “rustbelt” city’s poverty rate is nearly three times the national average, 83% of residents are Black, the population is shrinking, and major manufacturing companies are closing? Or the Riverside, CA area, a “sunbelt” city located in the San Joaquin Valley with an agriculture-based economy, a poverty rate that is higher than the national average, and a Latino population of 48%? Variation in this availability may indicate that households living in different communities have greater or lesser access to financial services to promote financial stability.

    Using financial services and community demographic data for 356 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) across the US, we compared the concentrations or densities of bank and credit union branches and alternative financial services.

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    Citation

    Despard, M., & Friedline, T. (2017). Do metropolitan areas have equal access to banking? A geographic investigation of financial services availability. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, & Inclusion (AEDI).

    Authors

    Despard, Mathieu R., Friedline, Terri

    Financial Inclusion Report Year 2017

  4. HAROLD ALFOND COLLEGE CHALLENGE (HACC) 2017 SAVINGS BRIEF

    At its inception, the Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC) offered a $500 grant to every Maine resident infant for whom a NextGen account was opened by the baby’s first birthday. Enrollment involved a two-step process, including an addendum to the NextGen application, required in order to accept the Alfond Grant. While the money for the $500 HACC grants comes entirely from the Harold Alfond Foundation (a private family foundation) and is granted initially to the Alfond Scholarship Foundation (a 501(c)3 nonprofit) before being invested for eligible Maine babies, the state is an important partner, providing the delivery system of the 529 college savings plan (NextGen), matching and auto-funding incentive grants, and data-sharing. NextGen accountholders can get a 50% match on their contributions, automatically deposited for qualifying contributions, up to a maximum annual match of $300, with no lifetime limit or income threshold1. In addition, NextGen accounts set up with automatic deposits are eligible for a one-time additional $100 match from Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). Accountholders who make contributions to NextGen accounts may also benefit from tax advantages associated with 529s.

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    Authors

    Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion

    CSA Brief Year 2017

  5. Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC) 2017 Savings Report for Households Who Opted-In to the Program from 2008 to 2013

    New This report provides a preliminary descriptive examination of aspects of Maine’s Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC) Children’s Savings Account (CSA) Program1. Specifically, the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion (AEDI) uses data provided by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) for NextGen College Investing Plan, Maine’s 529 college savings plan (NextGen or Next College Investing Plan) accounts opened as part of the HACC pilot in 2008 and the statewide opt-in CSA program in 2009-2013 to consider how account opening and family contribution differ by family income and across time, as well as how family saving and HACC features contribute to asset accumulation by these households.

    This report is the first product of a research partnership between the Alfond Scholarship Foundation and AEDI. Future research will center on more rigorous analysis of the savings data described here, as well as examination of outcomes for children enrolled after the Harold Alfond College Challenge shifted in March 2014 to automatically award the $500 Alfond Grant to all children born Maine residents, rather than requiring families to first open a NextGen account. Additional research will also include qualitative consideration of families’ experiences with the HACC and planned surveys to assess effects on academic achievement, college-saver identity development, and educational expectations in both the opt-in and current, opt-out, iterations of the HACC. Given the prominence of the Harold Alfond College Challenge in the CSA field, considering how Maine’s CSA is affecting financial and other preparation for college and how those effects may transform children’s outcomes may have important policy implications.

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    Authors

    Megan O'Brien, Melinda Lewis, Eui Jin Jung, William Elliott

    CSA Report Year 2017

  6. In San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College Children’s Savings Account Program, Families Save, Assets Accumulate, and Gaps Close

    Children’s savings accounts (CSAs) seek to build assets for children to use for long-term investments such as college or other postsecondary education.  Although CSAs are administered through financial institutions such as banks or state 529 college savings plans, CSAs are more than just accounts. They include features such as initial deposits and savings matches to make saving easier and more successful, particularly for families disadvantaged by low incomes and/or other obstacles.

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    Authors

    Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion

    CSA Brief Year 2017

  7. Investing in the Future

    Households need access to financial services that enhance their long-term financial health by providing opportunities to accumulate assets and build credit. Under this purview, banks and credit unions can be used for future investment, and alternative financial service (AFS) providers have been heavily critiqued for their role in undermining households’ long-term financial health. The types of financial services available within the community may be associated with financial health, improving or impeding a household’s ability to invest in the future, maintain a manageable level of debt, and achieve long-term goals.

    This study used data on financial services, individual/household and community demographics (including smartphone use), and household financial health to test whether the geographic concentrations or densities of bank and credit union branches and AFS providers within communities were associated with households’ financial health. We used two measures of financial services: the numbers of financial services per 1,000 population, or densities, and the composition of financial services densities relative to one another. We explored these associations by income as the availability of financial services within communities varies based on household income levels.

    The findings from this study are not intended to be used for drawing clear prescriptions about building brick-and-mortar branches in communities. Instead, these findings offer preliminary understandings of whether the availability of financial services in communities relates to households’ financial health, for which households, and under what conditions.

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    Citation

    Friedline, T., Despard, M., & West, S. (2017). Investing in the future: A geographic investigation of brick-and-mortar financial services and households’ financial health. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, & Inclusion (AEDI).

    Authors

    Friedline, Terri, Despard, Mathieu R., West, Stacia

    Financial Inclusion Report Year 2017

  8. Mapping Financial Opportunity

    The Mapping Financial Opportunity (#MapFinOpp) project was designed to investigate financial inclusion and health from a system perspective. In particular, the project aimed to understand variations in communities’ financial services, whether variations were based on communities’ racial and economic compositions, and whether these variations within communities were associated with households’ financial health. In addition, because the safety and affordability of financial products and services also matter, Mapping Financial Opportunity conducted surveys with random samples of banks, credit unions, and payday lenders to gain an understanding of how much consumers could expect to pay for entry-level products from the financial services within their communities. That is, just because a person has a bank in their community does not mean they can afford the minimum opening deposit or monthly maintenance fees. Thus, the project had four primary components, each relying on slightly different data: 

    • Interactive, web-based platform1;
    • Community analyses;
    • Household analyses; and
    • Product surveys.

    This report provides a summary of the project’s main findings in each of these four components, as well as key dissemination activities and plans for next steps.

     

    1Please visit the website here: https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/mapping-financial-opportunity/

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    Citation

    Friedline, T., & Despard, M. (2017). Mapping financial opportunity: Final report. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center on Assets, Education, & Inclusion (AEDI).

    Authors

    Terri Friedline, Mathieu Despard

    Financial Inclusion Report Year 2017

  9. Navigating Day-to-Day Finances

    A household with good financial health owns basic financial products and uses these products to navigate their day-to-day financial needs, such as managing and paying their bills. However, one potential pitfall that households may face as they try to navigate their finances is that certain types of financial services may not be readily available in the communities where they live. For example, the availability of banks, credit unions, or alternative financial service (AFS) providers in a household’s community may be limited. Hence, a household may be drawn to certain types of financial services that may improve or impede their ability to sustain good financial health, depending on the services that are most geographically convenient.

    This study used data on financial services, individual/household and community demographics (including smartphone use), and household financial health to test whether the geographic concentrations or densities of bank and credit union branches and AFS providers within communities were associated with households’ financial health. We used two measures of financial services: the numbers of financial services per 1,000 population, or densities, and the composition of financial services densities relative to one another. We explored these associations by income as the availability of financial services within communities varies based on household income levels.

    The findings from this study are not intended to be used for drawing clear prescriptions about building brick-and-mortar branches in communities. Instead, these findings offer preliminary understandings of whether the availability of financial services in communities relates to households’ financial health, for which households, and under what conditions.

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    Citation

    Friedline, T., Despard, M., & West, S. (2017). Navigating day-to-day finances: A geographic investigation of brick-and-mortar financial services and households’ financial health. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, & Inclusion (AEDI).

    Authors

    Friedline, Terri, Despard, Mathieu R., West, Stacia

    Financial Inclusion Report Year 2017

  10. PROMISE INDIANA 2017 SAVINGS BRIEF

    Promise Indiana is a state-supported and community-driven Children Savings Account intervention designed to equip young children and their families with the financial resources, college-bound identities, community support, and savings behaviors associated with positive educational outcomes. In addition to facilitated opening of a CollegeChoice 529 college savings plan account, children receive a $25 initial seed deposit and, if they contribute or raise $25, up to $100 in additional match.

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    Authors

    Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion

    CSA Brief Year 2017

  11. PROSPERITY KIDS 2017 SAVINGS BRIEF

    New Mexico’s Prosperity Kids Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program provides incentives, financial education, and peer support to encourage participants, most of whom are relatively low-income Latino families, to save for their children’s futures. Nonprofit Prosperity Works leverages social networks and community partnerships in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area to recruit accountholders. While the particular features are somewhat unique, Prosperity Kids evidences the hallmarks of Children’s Savings Account policy: initial seed deposits, facilitated or universal account opening, savings incentives, and long-term asset ownership2. Those who open Prosperity Kids CSAs receive a $100 initial deposit and up to $200 in a 1:1 match for their savings per year, over ten years.3 Parents may also earn benchmark deposits for completing activities associated with child development and academic achievement. As is the case in many CSA programs, these incentives are financed with a mix of philanthropic and public dollars. Prosperity Kids accounts are custodial, held by Prosperity Works until used for postsecondary education or, when the child turns 23, for ‘transition to a stable adulthood’, such as homeownership or entrepreneurship.

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    Authors

    Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion

    CSA Brief Year 2017

  12. Resilient in the Midst of Financial Change

    A household’s ability to adjust to changing financial circumstances provides evidence of good financial health and demonstrates their resilience in the face of unexpected financial emergencies. To reinforce their resilience, households may use savings, credit, and insurance from financial services such as banks, credit unions, and alternative financial service (AFS) providers. The types of financial services available within the community may be associated with resilience, improving or impeding a household’s ability to save for emergencies or access credit.

    This study used data on financial services, individual/household and community demographics (including smartphone use), and household financial health to test whether the geographic concentrations or densities of bank and credit union branches and AFS providers within communities were associated with households’ financial health. We explored these associations by income given that households may be exposed to varying densities of financial services within communities based on their income levels.

    The findings from this study are not intended to be used for drawing clear prescriptions about building brick-and-mortar branches in communities. Instead, these findings offer preliminary understandings of whether the availability of financial services in communities relates to households’ financial health, for which households, and under what conditions.

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    Citation

    Friedline, T., Despard, M., & West, S. (2017). Resilient in the midst of financial change: A geographic investigation of brick-and-mortar financial services and households’ financial health. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, & Inclusion (AEDI).

    Authors

    Friedline, Terri, Despard, Mathieu R., West, Stacia

    Financial Inclusion Report Year 2017

  13. Savings Patterns and Asset Accumulation in New Mexico’s Prosperity Kids Children’s Savings Account (CSA) Program: 2017 Update

    New Mexico’s Prosperity Kids Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program provides incentives, financial education, and peer support to encourage participants, most of whom are relatively low-income Latino families, to save for their children’s futures. Nonprofit Prosperity Works leverages social networks and community partnerships in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area to recruit accountholders. While the particular features are somewhat unique to this model, Prosperity Kids evidences the hallmarks of Children’s Savings Account policy: initial seed deposits, facilitated or universal account opening, savings incentives, and long-term asset ownership (Goldberg, 2005; Sherraden, 1991). Those who open Prosperity Kids CSAs receive a $100 initial seed deposit and up to $200 in a 1:1 match for their savings per year, over ten years.1 Parents may also earn benchmark deposits for completing activities associated with child development and academic achievement. As is the case in many CSA programs, these incentives are financed with a mix of philanthropic and public dollars. Prosperity Kids accounts are custodial, held by Prosperity Works until used for postsecondary education or, when the child turns 23, for ‘transition to a stable adulthood’, such as homeownership or entrepreneurship.

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    Authors

    Megan O'Brien, Melinda Lewis, Eui Jin Jung, William Elliott

    CSA Report Year 2017

  14. Savings Patterns and Asset Accumulation in the Promise Indiana Children’s Savings Account (CSA) Program: 2017 Update

    This study examines patterns in 529 college savings plan account opening, family contributions, and asset accumulation by participants in the Promise Indiana Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program who are enrolled from Wabash County, Indiana1. While this report uses administrative data to focus on saving, savings outcomes represent only one metric of CSA “success.” Importantly, rigorous research suggests that the positive effects of CSAs on such outcomes as educational expectations (Kim, Sherraden, Huang, & Clancy, 2015) and children’s well-being (Huang, Sherraden, Kim, & Clancy, 2014) can be realized even if families are not contributing to the account (Sherraden et al., 2015). Indeed, the Promise Indiana design incorporates research evidence that simply having a CSA can catalyze other positive outcomes for children and families, including by reinforcing children’s sense of a college-saver identity (Elliott, 2013a). Many aspects of the Promise Indiana CSA initiative are designed to cultivate these effects and, as described below, are provided to all children within a participating school, whether or not their families have opened a 529 account or, certainly, begun to contribute. Therefore, the potential value of a CSA—including those offered through Promise Indiana—should not be viewed only in terms of the dollars in the account, and saving should not be considered the only worthwhile interaction with the CSA. At the same time, contributing to a Children’s Savings Account may be one way that expectations of college are communicated to children. Additionally, saving is a potentially significant source of asset accumulation for higher education and can help to provide a sound financial foundation for a child’s future. As such, analysis such as this adds to the growing body of evidence of CSAs’ effects on children and families. Importantly, direct comparisons to these measures in other CSA programs is complicated by acute differences in target populations, program design, and the savings context. However, to contextualize these findings, a review of account opening, saving, and asset accumulation findings from the CSA field can be found in earlier AEDI reports (e.g. Lewis et al., 2016; Lewis, O’Brien, & Elliott, 2017).

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    Authors

    Megan O'Brien, Melinda Lewis, Eui Jin Jung, William Elliott

    CSA Report Year 2017