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


Wealth is increasingly recognized as an important determinant in children's human capital trajectories, and a number of countries have proposed or implemented asset-building policies targeting children. Much of the research on assets, however, has focused on the predictors of asset holding, and little is known about asset accumulation trajectories. This is especially so for families with young children. In addition, while studies have demonstrated the positive effects of assets on children's outcomes, few have examined the effects of different asset accumulation patterns and trajectories. This dissertation uses structural equation modeling techniques, including growth mixture models, to further clarify and specify the asset effects theory from a dynamic perspective. In particular, it explores and describes the different asset accumulation trajectories of families with young children; tests the effects of different asset trajectories on children's educational outcomes; examines the mediated pathways for the asset effects across the trajectory classes, and explores if the timing of asset accumulation in a child's development matters. Using longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youths 1979 Mother and Child datasets from 1987 to 2000, four asset accumulation trajectory classes are identified. The results indicate that around 80% of households belong to the Low Stable trajectory class that started with low initial net worth, and which experienced non-significant growth in assets over time, while only 4% of households with lower initial wealth levels experienced significant asset increases over the same period: Low Accumulator class). The results further indicate that children from the other asset trajectories have better outcomes compared to children from the Low Stable class. In addition, children from the Low Accumulator class have similar outcomes compared to children from households with higher initial net worth, regardless of subsequent growth trajectories. The effects of assets on children's educational outcomes appear to be fully mediated by the quality of home cognitive stimulation and the level of mothers' educational expectations for their children. Finally, on the question of timing, when in the child's life stage asset accumulation happens is not as important as the fact that accumulation happens. Implications for theory and policy development are discussed.


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