Saving from poverty: A critical review of Individual Development Accounts

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The much-heralded anti-poverty strategy of asset-building has been adopted by many countries across the world. Asset-building programmes are designed to help low-income families achieve long-term financial stability through savings and asset accumulation. This article offers a comprehensive and critical review of the current state of theory and research on asset-building programmes, with an emphasis on Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) in the United States. Studies of IDAs have involved quantitative evaluations of the programme, focusing on three key topics: the programme’s effects on clients’ savings behaviour, its effects on clients’ outlook on life, and its long-term impact. On the basis of a careful review of these findings, it is argued that the claim that IDA programmes and asset-building in general have the potential to reduce poverty is overrated and premature. The article builds on theoretical insights regarding the nature of neoliberalism to make sense of the picture portrayed in the research literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-200
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Social Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2018


  • anti-poverty policy
  • asset-building
  • neoliberalism
  • poverty
  • savings


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