Panel Paper: Connecting Saving and Food Security: Evidence From An Asset Building Program for Families in Poverty

Friday, November 8, 2013 : 1:55 PM
DuPont Ballroom H (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Caezilia Loibl, Anastasia Snyder and Travis Mountain, Ohio State University

This project investigates the effectiveness of community-based asset-building programs for preventing childhood hunger. Our three specific objectives are:

Objective 1: To identify level and changes in the level of children’s food security during a family’s participation in a community-based savings program (a) during program participation and in the year after asset purchase and in the longer term after program graduation (b) in comparison to program dropouts and a general population sample.

Objective 2: To identify family, financial, and economic factors that affect children’s level of food security in savings program families.

Objective 3: To identify a set of best practices (a) for savings program participants and the non-profit agencies offering the program concerning coping strategies to ensure secure levels of children’s food security in asset building programs and (b) for policy makers, program administrators, and community partners concerning program development and funding decisions.


Data collection is currently ongoing and includes survey program providers and participants in the Assets for Independence program, a federally funded matched savings program for low-income families, to match these data with program administrative data, Census data, and to compare the data with responses of a comparison sample drawn from the Current Population Survey’s Food Security Supplement. By the time of the conference in November, the data will be analyzed to test eight hypotheses that address our three major objectives.

We expect to identify situations of low and very low food security among the children of a substantial number of families who are actively saving in this program due to (1) the demographic characteristics of AFI program families matching the demographics of food insecure families, (2) the high demands of the program on families’ cash flow, and (3) the psychological challenges of regular saving among low income populations.

If indeed food insecurity increases due to program participation we expect it will occur at two key time points: (1) the early stage of the program due to the high demand placed on a family’s financial resources and management skills and (2) late in the program and at asset purchase after families face the expenses of moving into a new home, starting a small business, or returning to college, financial resources may be extremely tight.

In the longer term, we expect to find increasing levels of food security among families who successfully complete the program due to: (1) the intensive training in financial management, budgeting, and saving provided in the Assets for Independence program and (2) the economic, social, and psychological stability provided through the asset purchase.

Policy implications

The successful completion of this research is expected to contribute to our understanding of the short and longer-term effects of intensive training in financial literacy, financial management, and regular saving on children and their families’ food security. Current research on savings behavior provides no concrete information on its impact on food security, and thus this research will potentially provide policy makers with critical new information on the intended and possibly unintended consequences of AFI program participation.

Full Paper: