The Downpayments on the American Dream Policy Demonstration (ADD), the first demonstration of its kind, tested the effectiveness of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) as a tool for low-income Americans to achieve economic independence. With support from 13 community-based organizations across the country, 2,364 low-income individuals opened IDAs. CSD designed and implemented the research plan for the multi-year demonstration. Methods included a longitudinal experiment with 10-year follow-up, account monitoring, in-depth interviews, cross-sectional surveys, case studies, and program assessments.
Findings indicate that, contrary to common perception, the poor can and do save. In addition, association between savings outcomes and structural characteristics of IDA programs suggests that inclusive asset building is most effectively achieved through program and policy design. As CSD Director Michael Sherraden has noted, a successful approach to asset building "would focus not on changing people, but rather on changing policies." ADD findings continue to inform asset-building policy and program development.