Publication Date



There is an emerging policy and academic discussion, supported by a growing body of empirical evidence, regarding the potentially positive effects of asset accumulation in lowincome households. However, at least two questions precede this discussion: Can the poor save? And, if so, how can programs and policies promote saving by the poor? This paper begins to address these questions through an interdisciplinary review of theory and empirical evidence on saving. The first section summarizes existing theories of saving and asset accumulation. In the second section, a general model of saving is presented. This model emphasizes contextual influences as well as individual characteristics. Subsequent sections consider variables related to ability to save and willingness to save, with an emphasis on poor and near-poor individuals. The final section offers a discussion of research and policy implications, including a list of testable propositions.

Document Type

Working Paper


Financial Inclusion


Asset Building


Subsequent publication: Beverly, S. G., & Sherraden, M. (1999). Institutional determinants of saving: Implications for low-income households and public policy. Journal of Socio-Economics, 28(4), 457–473. doi:10.1016/S1053-5357(99)00046-3

Original Citation

Beverly, S. (1997). How can the poor save? Theory and evidence on saving in low-income households (CSD Working Paper No. 97-3). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.


low income, savings, theory, research, saving, savings patterns, savings outcomes