Asset Building Financial Inclusion Working Paper

A Process Model of Children’s Savings Indirect Effects on College Progress

In addition to direct effects that accompany owning savings, asset researchers hypothesize that savings also has indirect effects. However, theory and research on the psychological effects of assets are in their early stages of development. One promising area of theoretical and research inquiry is the study of college expectations as an explanatory mechanism for the relationship between assets and children’s educational outcomes. However, little theory has been developed about how assets may influence college expectations. a recent study uses Identity-Based Motivation (IBM) theory to explain the indirect effects of assets. There are three core components of IBM: (1) salience, (2) group congruence, and (3) difficulty. We build on IBM by suggesting that institutions (1) provide important contextual cues that bring the college-bound identity to the forefront of the mind; (2) provide an embedded thought process or strategies for overcoming difficulty; and (3) provide power over resources. Our results suggest that children’s savings programs may promote college progress by making children’s college-bound identity more salient.

Project: College Success


Elliott, W., III, Nam, I., & Johnson, T. (2011). A process model of children’s savings indirect effects on college progress (CSD Working Paper No. 11-30). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.