Economic Opportunities Program
Economic Opportunities Program
Individual Development Account (IDA) Project
Since late 2002, Aspen/EOP researchers have been examining the current state of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), with special emphasis on the particular kinds of support needed by IDA programs to reach scale, and on ways IDAs can be integrated into the broader context of asset development. First conceptualized in the early 1990s, IDAs are restricted accounts that assist low-income households to build savings and invest in high-return assets, such as homes, business ownership and higher education.
Ultimately, this research seeks to assess the infrastructure needed to support the propagation of IDAs throughout the country and to identify the gaps within existing support structures.
Four specific questions ground this work:
- How do IDAs fit within asset-building strategies for low-income income communities?
- How can the the structure and functioning of IDAs be improved?
- How can the delivery of IDAs be scaled up?
- How can IDAs become sustainable?
Almost since inception of IDAs, key stakeholders have reflected on issues surrounding how IDAs can reach scale, the sustainability of the program as a tool for asset development, and how to innovate on the model and develop broad-based delivery systems. Such reflections largely have been informal. This study documents these reflections and attempts to more systematically capture voices of practitioners, intermediaries, technical assistance providers, funders and leaders in the broader financial services arena.
Funders: Annie E. Casey Foundation and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
Initial work on this project has led to the creation of:
Achieving Scale in Asset Building: Operational Challenges and Opportunities from Individual Development Account Programs
The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program’s most recent report on IDA programs places its two previous IDA studies within the broader exploration of scale that Aspen has developed across the community development and asset-building fields. Aspen’s ongoing research on scale and sustainability reveals that an inadequate focus on operations and infrastructure is one of the key impediments to achieving scale and impact in these fields. Based on a series of interviews, site visits and focus group discussions with IDA practitioners, the paper attempts to identify operational factors that may challenge or inhibit the broader adoption of IDAs, and makes recommendations to address some of the challenges.
Individual Development Accounts: A Report to the Field - Connecting Policy to Practice
EOP’s second report on the IDA field draws upon a series of learning group meetings of IDA practitioners and interviews with financial institution officials. These discussions offered valuable insight into the planning for next steps of IDA development under diverse policy scenarios and the implications for future policy development, all with an eye toward building the field.
Individual Development Accounts: How to move from a program for thousands to a product for millions
This report (available for download as Executive Summary or Full Report) shares some of the early findings from EOP’s research and is intended to spark discussion about ways to move from the current IDA system that reaches thousands of individuals to an asset-building system for the tens of millions of Americans who lack ways to build and maintain assets.