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Asset‐based Social Programmes: A Critical Analysis of Current Initiatives

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This chapter reviews the current status of asset‐based programmes, defined as programmes intended to assist low income households to increase their financial assets. Among OECD countries, only Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States are identified as having such programmes. Two programmes in Canada, one of which is a randomised control trial (RCT) with Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), and the other an education savings plan, are reviewed. The RCT is yet to report, but preliminary results are mixed. Canada's education saving plan is promising, but it is experiencing low take‐up. In the United Kingdom, the Child Trust Fund and the Savings Gateway programmes are reviewed. While the Children's Trust Fund appears popular, there are some troubling potential counter‐redistributive long‐run implications. Savings Gateway 2 was set up as a study with control groups. Although there is a rush to judgement in the United Kingdom, the results have still not been adequately analysed. Finally, the chapter finds that there are only about 20 000 IDAs in the United States, a surprisingly low number given the attention to this type of programme in the United States. The results of the one IDA controlled experiment in the United States were mixed, with troubling high administrative costs amounting to about USD 3 for each USD 1 of recipient benefits. The chapter concludes that an asset‐based perspective is an important way to view social programmes, but no panacea. Asset‐based programmes need to be carefully designed and evaluated, as any other type of social programme.
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: 01 December 2007

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