Addressing the Challenge of Account Dormancy in Youth Savings Initiatives

Larger-scale efforts to connect youth with savings accounts as a means to promote a range of social policy outcomes has drawn increasing attention among policymakers and in a variety of settings in recent years. In order to implement these initiatives, much of the attention has been focused on enrollment and account opening. Once accounts are opened many lay dormant for prolonged periods of time, creating uncertainty about the extent to which the experience of account ownership can lead to positive outcomes. In some cases, account dormancy indicates a “no effect” relationship between the intervention and desired outcomes. But in other cases, account dormancy reflects a “delayed” or “undetected” effect. Failure to understand the dynamics of engagement among accountholders generally, and youth more specifically, may needlessly weaken support for valuable savings and financial inclusion initiatives whose potential and positive effects may unfold over an extended time horizon.

 New America’s paper, Addressing the Challenge of Account Dormancy in Youth Savings Initiatives, considers how to understand the challenge of dormancy in large-scale account-based initiatives and policy efforts. It describes the range of issues related to account engagement from the perspective of financial institutions, policymakers, and account holders and notes experiences from the field to help shed light on how the dormancy problem has been expressed in diverse settings. This issue brief concludes with an assessment of specific issues that warrant further exploration.




Justin King is Policy Director of the Family-Centered Social Policy program at New America. In this position, he works to develop and advance innovative public policies that expand economic opportunity by better supporting the financial needs and desires of striving Americans. 

Patricia Hart was a policy analyst in the Asset Building program at New America where she provided research and analysis on a range of topics, including affordable housing, financial inclusion, and workforce development.

Rachel Black is the co-director of the Family-Centered Social Policy program at New America. In this role, she leads research, analysis, and public commentary around a portfolio of issues devoted to creating a more equitable public policy approach to  advancing a new vision for social policy that allows all families to thrive in an era of growing risk, uncertainty, and inequality.

Reid Cramer is director of the Millennials Initiative at New America. Previously, he served as the Asset Building program's research director and as a co-director of New America's Next Social Contract Initiative.