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

Interventions and Policies to Improve the Economic Wellbeing and Stability of Families Around the World: Evidence From China, Kenya, Uganda, and the United States

Friday, January 18, 2013: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Marina 2 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: International Social Work and Global Issues
Symposium Organizer:
Gina Chowa, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Background and Significance: Asset-building is a key economic and social development strategy in both developed and developing countries (McPeak 2004; Sachs 2005; Sanchez et al. 2007). Empirical research has found associations between asset ownership and several positive outcomes, including increased wealth (Schreiner, et al., 2003), future orientation (Yadama & Sherraden, 1996), political participation (McBride, Lombe, & Beverly, 2003), educational attainment (Filmer, 2002), and health (Woelk & Chikuse, 2000). Currently, few studies have rigorously investigated the impacts of assets on household economic wellbeing across developed and developing countries. This symposium addresses the gap in literature by examining impacts of asset-building interventions and policies in four countries.  Using two experimental and two population study designs, the symposium displays a rich variety of potential interventions that social workers could employ to promote development in both developed and developing countries. 

Methods: Studies in this symposium use rigorous analytical methods to investigate impacts of asset ownership. In Uganda, a quasi-experiment examines asset ownership differences between intervention group (n=199) and comparison group (n=183). Propensity score analysis is used to correct selection bias and provide a rigorous estimation of treatment effects. In Oklahoma, USA, a statewide randomized experiment (treatment n=1358, control n=1346) examines the effects of financial incentives on saving for college education of newborn children using 529 College Savings Plan.  Using the China Household Income Project (N=6,835 households and 20,632 individuals from 77 cities), the study in China examines the extent of asset and income poverty in urban areas using generalized linear regression models. Finally, a cross-national study of families in Nairobi, Kenya (n=189) and Georgia, USA (n-194) investigates how assets mitigate economic strain of families, using structural equation model (SEM).

Results: In Uganda, treatment individuals had $38.63 more in financial assets, and 0.15 tropical livestock unit, than comparison individuals. In OK, USA, the hazard of opening a college account for a new born in the treatment is 42 times that of the control, when a financial incentive is available. In Kenya, the economic strain for Nairobi residents was 0.5 standard deviations above the mean of economic strain for Athens residents. In China, households headed by a range of interesting demographic characteristics, are more likely to be asset poor.

Conclusions and Implications: Asset development offers important program and policy implications for household wellbeing. Findings from four countries suggest that low-income families can benefit from asset building. Social work researchers and practitioners can employ asset interventions to reduce poverty and alleviate its effects. Asset building may contribute to a poverty reduction strategy that shifts from just income supplementation to a more inclusive wealth promotion policy that assists people in creating their own pathways out of poverty. Although evidence suggests asset building may work in developed and developing countries, recognition of the importance of local contexts should be taken into account when developing any programs designed to help those who are economically excluded.

* noted as presenting author
Wealth Effects of an Asset-Building Intervention Among Rural Households in Masindi, Uganda
Gina Chowa, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Rainier D. Masa, MSW, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Michael Sherraden, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis
Asset Poverty in Urban China: A Study Using the 2002 Chinese Household Income Project
Minchao Jin, MSW, Washington University in Saint Louis; Jin Huang, PhD, Saint Louis University; Suo Deng, PhD, Peking University; Baorong Guo, PhD, University of Missouri-Saint Louis; Li Zou, MSW, Washington University in Saint Louis; Michael Sherraden, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis
Financial Incentive and Program Participation of 529 College Savings Plans: Evidence From a Statewide Randomized Experiment
Jin Huang, PhD, Saint Louis University; Mark Schreiner, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis
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