Blog: Learning Agenda Outlines Innovative YouthSave Research Plans

By Center for Social Development, Washington University in St. Louis

In 1950 there were just under half a billion young people from ages 15 to 24 in the world; by 2050 that number is expected to grow to 1.2 billion. Of these 1.2 billion, 90% will live in developing economies. Available evidence suggests that youth savings has the potential to improve the well-being of low-income and vulnerable youth, but globally, the number of youth savings programs is small. Systematic research is required to understand what types of youth savings products and services spur savings among populations of youth around the world.

YouthSave is designed to test models for successful youth saving. YouthSave’s rigorous, large-scale, multi-method research will fill gaps in knowledge about savings products, services, and policies. YouthSave will test Youth Savings Account (YSA) innovations in four developing countries—Colombia, Nepal, Ghana, and Kenya. The Project will investigate longitudinal impacts of holding a YSA on youth, households, and financial institutions. For example, the impact study will be one of very few savings studies that attempt to document long-term development outcomes in experimental conditions. This research will inform savings products, services, and policies in the target countries and beyond.

The YouthSave Learning Agenda published by the Center for Social Development at Washington University articulates the questions and methods that guide YouthSave research. The research is framed by four key learning questions:

First Question: What is the “business case” for youth savings accounts?

To be widely adopted by financial institutions (FIs),Youth Savings Accounts (YSAs) must be attractive products that can be strong elements of FIs’ medium- and long-term business strategies. One of the goals of YouthSave research is to identify the characteristics of systems and products that will make YSAs attractive to FIs. 

Using business case studies, YouthSave will explore these operational issues as well as the effect of YSAs on lifetime customer value to the FI:

  • Product design
  • Delivery channels
  • Staff incentives

Second Question: Which clients are likely to be successful savers?

Insight into which clients are likely to be successful savers and what account and service features are associated with saving mayinform YSA design and marketing as well as influence perceptions of viability.

Using aSaving Demand Assessment (SDA), the research team will document the account demand (uptake) and savings activity in the YouthSave products and assess:

  • How many youth take up accounts
  • Who saves
  • What particular youth and household characteristics are associated with saving
  • What product and service features may encourage saving

Third Question: What are the impacts of youth savings accounts on youth and household development?

Testing for financial and developmental impacts will provide the strongest evidence for or against the expansion of YSAs and their viability as a development tool. The nature of these impacts will suggest directions in products, services, and policy.

An impact assessment in Ghana will investigate the impacts of Youth Savings Accounts on:

  • Developmental outcomes for youth
  • Household finances
  • Household well-being

Fourth Question: How will context shape the structure and implementation of Youth Savings Accounts at each project site? 

YSAs, while sharing many key features, will differ in their structure and implementation across financial institutions and countries due to contextual factors such as regulatory environment and institutional governance.

Integrative Case Studies will tell the “story” of YouthSave in each country and give “voice” to youth and their families to provide richness and detail on operations and outcomes. Integrative Case Studies will include the following areas:

  • Financial institution history and characteristics
  • Policy and regulatory environment related to youth savings
  • Economic and social environment
  • Media coverage of YouthSave and youth saving
  • Product and service planning and implementation
  • Profiles and perspectives of youth participants
  • Profiles and perspectives of community stakeholders

Future Directions

Learnings from YouthSave will be broadly communicated and applied in the “real world” of commercial financial services, microfinance, development programs for youth, and public policies. Much of this impact will occur in developing countries, where so many young people currently lack viable opportunities for education and livelihood. However, YouthSave’s lessons will also be relevant in economically advanced countries. Increasingly, we learn from each other all around the world, and the YouthSave team aims for these extended learnings and impacts.

 

8/22/2011