The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Experiences with Matched Savings for Children and Youth: Perceived Impacts

Thursday, January 17, 2013: 4:00 PM
Nautilus 1 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Edward Scanlon, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
LeAnn Wittman, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Kansas, Overland Park, KS
Deborah Adams, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Purpose: Many children and youth live in homes with few financial resources and declining incomes. Given current economic conditions, both income and assets are required to secure social protection and achieve life goals. This study compares and contrasts data from in-depth interviews with two low-income groups: adolescents and teens who had matched savings accounts, and parents of young children with matched savings accounts. The research question guiding this study is: “What common and different experiences in, and perceptions of, asset building emerge from interviews with youth who have matched savings accounts and adults whose young children have matched savings accounts?”

Method: Participants from three asset-building programs were interviewed.  In-depth, semi-structured interviews lasting between 45 and 90 minutes were conducted at each study location, and were audio-taped and transcribed for analysis.  Two researchers analyzed data together, using ATLAS.ti, and matrices were developed to explore patterns in themes across interviews and groups. The sample included 27 parents of young children who had matched saving accounts and 30 youth who were saving.  Of 57 children and youth represented in this study, 60% were African American, 19% were Latino/a, 16% were Asian American, and 5% were European American.

Results: Interviews with both youth and parents of young children were full of perceived impacts of matched savings. Many participants experienced positive impacts from matched savings including: (1) increased future orientation (2) greater sense of hope and possibility (3) caution in spending (4) enhanced self-esteem and (5) greater sense of security.  In the most obvious point of dissonance, parents of young children discussed positive impacts on children extensively while only a few youth perceived impacts involving their families. Youth participants also identified increased financial knowledge as a perceived impact. Overall, though, findings that emerged from analysis of interviews with youth who were saving for their own futures and parents who were saving for their young children were remarkably consistent.  One of many examples of this consistency across interviews and groups can be seen in the abundant data on matched savings and college aspirations. 

Conclusions and Implications: Perceived impacts of matched savings as captured in interviews across three programs in different parts of the country serving three distinct low-income populations were surprisingly similar. Participants articulate myriad positive changes in their lives from matched savings. From their perspectives, matched savings accounts help them be more prudent in using financial resources, create a sense of security, increase  hopefulness about the future, in addition to allowing them to build assets that may potentially help them, or their children, attend college.  These perceived impacts of matched savings parallel goals of many clients and community members with whom social workers stand.  The mirroring of participant perceptions and common social work goals leads to the detailed discussion of implications for practice, policy, and research that concludes the paper.