Author's School

Brown School of Social Work

Author's Department/Program

Social Work


English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Michael Sherraden


The Government of Ghana recognizes the importance of education for improving the socioeconomic well-being of young Ghanaians and the development of the nation. Education currently accounts for the largest share: 31%) of Ghana's national budget: GNA, 2012). Educational reforms and investments have had remarkable success in improving access to education up to the Junior High School: JHS) level, but progression beyond JHS remains a challenge. More than half of JHS graduates do not gain admission into Senior High School: SHS) because of poor academic performance and the inability of those who qualify to afford the drastic increase in educational costs.

Stakeholders have focused on different ways to address these educational challenges. Researchers who study the developmental effects of owning assets: e.g., savings, home, land, livestock, etc.) in particular have begun paying attention to ways in which personal: e.g., savings) and household: e.g., assets) economic resources can improve young people's educational outcomes. This emerging area of work is guided by the asset-effects framework, which posits that economic resources may influence educational outcomes directly through being able to pay for tuition and school supplies and indirectly through their influence on cognitive processes: e.g., academic self-efficacy and expectations). Empirical evidence from around the world suggests potential connections, but there are significant research gaps on how specific types of economic resources affect educational outcomes. For instance, while most studies that link income and educational outcomes find strong relationships between income and children's academic performance, others find mixed or contradictory results. The mixed results suggest the need for further conceptualization and empirical research to clarify the nature of the relationships between different types of economic resources and academic performance.

To help address the research gaps, this study uses nested cross-sectional data from an ongoing youth savings experiment to examine potential direct and indirect associations between two types of economic resources--parents' income and household assets--and math and English scores of middle school-age youth in Ghana. In addition, the study assesses the possibility that gender moderates the relationships between the aforementioned types of economic resources and math and English scores.

Using multilevel structural equation modeling techniques, the study does not find strong evidence to support the hypothesized direct relationship between economic resources and educational outcomes. However, the study finds strong evidence that parents' income and household assets indirectly affect math and English scores through young people's academic self-efficacy and expectations. These findings suggest that psychological factors such as academic self-efficacy and expectation are more predictive of youth academic performance than economic resources. Subgroup analyses also show that gender moderates the indirect relationships between economic resources and English scores but not math scores. This finding concerning possible gender differences could inform policymakers about economic resources that may promote parallel outcomes for boys and girls.


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