Author's School

Brown School of Social Work

Author's Department/Program

Social Work


English (en)

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Michael Sherraden


In the last two decades, asset-based social policies, which encourage families, especially low-income families, to accumulate assets by providing appropriate institutional settings, have received increasing attention from policymakers and researchers. Various programs and strategies have been outlined to improve saving and asset ownership opportunities in disadvantaged populations. Although there are multiple proposals of asset-based programs for children with disabilities, few of them have been implemented. To better inform asset-based policy practices for children with disabilities, this study examines asset effects for this population using the secondary survey data. Asset effects refer to the hypothesized positive influences of household assets on child development. A sample of children with disabilities is created from the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics: PSID-CDS). This study has two specific aims:: 1) To examine the relationship between household assets and children's educational and health outcomes; and: 2) To examine the mechanism of asset effects on children's educational and health outcomes. From the life course perspective, the dissertation hypothesizes that household assets have cumulative effects on child development. Child well-being is a function of not only current household assets but also all previous household assets invested in the child. I propose four empirical strategies to test the hypothesis of asset effects for children with disabilities. The first set of analyses focuses on household assets measured before childbirth. The second strategy uses propensity score classification, which categorizes children into multiple groups based on households' expected asset values. The third set of analyses applies the fixed-effects model to control for time-invariant unobserved factors. The final analyses test the hypothesis of asset effects in a dynamic model using Structural Equations Modeling: SEM). The study finds that household assets have positive associations with child outcomes for children with disabilities, especially with health outcomes. Positive associations are more likely to be seen when household net worth is greater than $40,000 or liquid assets are greater than $10,000. Although the findings suggest that household assets in early childhood are more important for child well-being than household assets at a later stage, positive associations exist in both periods. The findings indicate the importance of having assets for the entire childhood. The study also shows that marginal effects of household assets are greater for low-income and low-wealth households. Findings of this study have important policy implications. Asset building should be included in the new vision of successful development for children with disabilities. For families raising children with disabilities, asset accumulation should start early and last long with a specific focus on health and health services. The minimum savings goal should be set at around $10,000. Asset-based programs for children with disabilities should be progressive toward low-income and low-wealth populations.


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