Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) are interventions that seek to build assets for children to use as long-term investments (Goldberg, 2005; Sherraden, 1991), particularly for postsecondary education. Provided through financial institutions, CSAs generally include progressive features, such as initial seed deposits, financial incentives for attaining certain academic benchmarks, or matches for savings deposits (e.g., Elliott & Lewis, 2014). Distinct among financial aid policies for their cultivation of improved outcomes throughout children’s lives, CSAs aim to equip children, particularly those who are disadvantaged, with assets that have demonstrated associations with academic achievement (Elliott, Kite, O’Brien, Lewis, & Palmer, 2016) and educational attainment (Elliott, 2013; Elliott & Beverly, 2011). CSAs also connect households to mainstream financial institutions (Friedline, 2014), activating families to save for their children’s futures and their later financial well-being.
This report summarizes a selection of data from the second administration of the Wabash Early Award Scholarship Program (EASP) student survey. The survey for the second round included two new blocks of questions designed to assess: (a) student awareness of the Early Award Scholarship Program and (b) student college planning activities. A summary of findings from these two new blocks is presented here.
This report describes findings from the first year of a three-year evaluation of Boston Saves, a children’s savings account program offered by the City of Boston through the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (OWD) in partnership with Boston Public Schools (BPS). Boston Saves automatically provides each student enrolled in kindergarten (K2) in BPS a children’s savings account (CSA) including an initial deposit of $50 from the City of Boston and ongoing opportunities to receive incentives. The money in this account can be used for college or job training expenses after the student finishes high school.
This impromptu series grapples with issues derailing America from being able to tackle its economic inequality problem. The first paper (which probably should have been the last paper in the series, but that is why this is impromptu which is a nice way to say I did not start off planning a three paper series) deals with issues that stand in the way of the asset field specifically, but the poverty field more generally, uniting in the fight against economic inequality. The second paper pulls back the curtain on narratives that have shaped Americans’ views on the importance of wealth transfers for sustaining the ideal captured in the American dream. The third paper will dive directly into the unique issue of race in America as it relates to economic inequality. The objective of this series is to start a productive conversation on passing meaningful wealth transfer legislation that has the potential to greatly reduce economic inequality in America. Such legislation is not only important for American families, but is a way to strengthen America from both internal and external threats to its democracy. The existence of high levels of economic inequality are a direct threat to the survival of America and demand that we declare war on it today.
Professor William Elliott’s opinion article in the Gotham Gazette argues that poor children and families need both poverty alleviation and child savings programs. Elliott writes, “I am arguing that the drive Americans have demonstrated throughout history comes from more than having enough money to pay the bills each week, it comes from the promise of a better future.”
Child Development Accounts (CDAs)—also called Child Savings Accounts (CSAs)—provide assets and encourage saving and asset building for children. (See the accompanying document, The Case for a Nationwide Child Development Account Policy.) An efficient, trusted, and sustainable system for delivering CDAs is already being implemented in some states. A nationwide policy would require federal funding and changes in policy and practice to deliver CDAs for all children with a seed deposit as early as birth.
Research shows that CDAs have positive effects on asset building and healthy child and family development, with greater effects for people of color and low-income households. Asset building over time is the key to these results. Positive effects for children and families occur even before the money is spent for education.
Investing in children is fundamental for families, communities, and the U.S. economy. Child Development Accounts (CDAs), also called Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs), offer a proven and efficient model for investing in all children.
The Community Foundation of Wabash County’s Promise Scholarship program (Promise Scholars) was conceived and implemented with the goal of improving educational outcomes by providing opportunities to earn scholarship awards at a much earlier stage than traditional scholarship programs. More than just a commitment, deposits are awarded directly into the child’s 529 as they are earned. This approach deviates in important ways from traditional college savings account programs, traditional scholarship programs, and even early commitment scholarship programs. In Promise Scholars, children not only receive a CSA, but they also receive early award scholarships directly, and immediately, rather than as the promise of money in the future.
This report provides an update to 2017 Participation and Savings Patterns in the Wabash County Promise Scholarship Program: Year 1 (O’Brien, Elliott, Lewis & Jung, 2018). The initial 2017 report included all 4th - 8th graders in Wabash County during the 2016-2017 academic year, which also served as the first year of the Wabash County Promise Scholars program. Accumulated savings in Promise Indiana 529s, Promise Scholarship awards and match, and free/reduced lunch status provided by the schools were used to obtain a cross-sectional view of the impact of the first program year. For the current report, we examine enrollment, savings behaviors, and asset accumulation for participants who enrolled in Promise Scholars during the first three academic years of the program: 2016/2017, 2017/2018, and 2018/2019. As with the first report, we include scholarship earnings, 529 savings data to date, as well as free/reduced lunch status provided by the schools to compare savings outcomes across program participants and non-participants and across poor and non-poor families.
Improving educational outcomes for Rhode Island’s K-12 students is essential for the future of the state. While not an end in themselves, standardized tests can be used to measure school and statewide progress and guide accountability efforts. While extensive research has examined how student, family, school, and community factors influence test performance, one factor sticks out: student poverty (Reardon (2011;) (Carnoy & Garcia, 2017;) (Ford, 2011, (Kornrich & Furstenberg (2013;) (Duncan & Murnane, 2011). Because poverty is so closely related to performance, the failure to account for poverty can lead to misleading assessments of school performance, distorting policy efforts.
However, the relationship between poverty and school performance in Rhode Island, and how this should guide policy, is not well understood. Rhode Island currently uses standardized test data to comply with national reporting, benchmark performance, and identify opportunities for improvement. Expecting a fixed level of academic achievement for a certain amount of educational investment per student neglects the substantial variation in student experience and competency due to unequal family resources. A more nuanced understanding of the relationship between poverty and education would help to isolate schools that are performing well, and poorly, relative to their students’ poverty rate. Understanding the performance of Rhode Island relative to Massachusetts, a wealthy state and national leader in education reform, can help to elucidate the role of poverty in driving achievement gaps.
In this context, we used data on student poverty and 2018-2019 standardized test performance for elementary, middle, and high school students in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to examine the relationship between school district-level poverty and performance.
Education is one of the largest investments America makes in reducing poverty and promoting economic mobility. From this perspective, education is perceived by many as a long-term strategy for achieving individual, family, and intergenerational prosperity; a tool for increasing overall productivity; and an engine of economic growth on which our collective fortunes depend. However, like poverty policies in America, education policies have largely focused on providing children with enough financial aid to survive, not enough to thrive. This brief will argue that to deliver on the promise of money, we posit that a better notion of free is to provide low-income and underserved students with targeted ongoing deposits into a Children’s Savings Account from an early age. Further, we should consider integrating this long-term strategy with a long-term education investment, like College Promise (frequently referred to as “free college”) programs, to reverse this damaging trend, build a college going culture within families and their communities, and remove economic barriers to higher education and adult success.
We should not lose sight of moments in our collective history when we, as a country, have dared to dream and, as a result, were able to leap forward. The race to the moon was just such a moment, when we were “pushed” by the Soviet Union’s early advantage in the “space race” to unshackle ourselves from our limited imagination and as a result developed new technology to explore space. The U.S. foster care system needs a similar push to move away from an exclusive focus on survival policies for foster care youth and move toward including an asset-empowered agenda that can provide youth in foster care with the opportunity to thrive. This report looks at adapting CSAs to work better for Foster Care Youth.
This study conducted two cluster randomized trials using household-level random assignment to test the impact of a rewards cards program at two different locations: Wabash County Indiana and the City of St. Louis. Findings show the treatment group in Indiana had a greater than three-fold increase in savings activity in CSAs, and in St Louis had a greater than seven-fold increase in savings activity in CSAs. These findings suggest that rewards cards can be an effective strategy for engaging families of different backgrounds in saving activities.
Information about the nature and extent of wealth inequality among Whites can play a role in eliminating misconceptions and reframing the discussion about wealth redistribution as essential to restoring hope in the American dream and imperative to improving the life chances of all. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we find that the top quintile of White wealth holders has 212 times as much wealth as the bottom quintile. Further, multi-dimensional descriptive analyses from 1999 to 2015 indicate that median wealth has increased 46% among White households in the top 20% of both the wealth and income distributions. During the same time period, wealth holdings decreased among White household in the bottom 20% of both economic distributions. These data suggest that wealth inequality is a problem not only for Black households in America, but for White households as well. Thus, wealth inequality is not just a question of discrimination and racial disadvantage but is rooted in the fundamental nature of the American economy.
Postal banking through the US Postal Service has been recommended as one option for improving the availability of safe and affordable financial products and services in lower-income and minority communities. Advocates of postal banking suggest that post offices have maintained their presence in communities vacated by banks and credit unions and inundated by alternative financial service (AFS) providers. However, there have been few attempts to analyze data in order to test this assumption. Using financial services and community demographic data for 31,489 zip codes across the US, we compared the concentrations or densities of bank and credit union branches, AFS, and post offices.
Despard, M., Friedline, T., & Refior, K. (2017). Can post offices increase access to financial services? A geographic investigation of financial services availability. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, & Inclusion (AEDI).
Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) are interventions that seek to build assets for children to use as longterm investments (Goldberg, 2005; Sherraden, 1991), particularly for postsecondary education. Provided through financial institutions, CSAs generally include progressive features, such as initial seed deposits, financial incentives for attaining certain academic benchmarks, or matches for savings deposits (e.g., Elliott & Lewis, 2014). Distinct among financial aid policies for their cultivation of improved outcomes throughout children’s lives, CSAs aim to equip children, particularly those who are disadvantaged, with assets that have demonstrated associations with academic achievement (Elliott, Kite, O’Brien, Lewis, & Palmer, 2016) and educational attainment (Elliott, 2013; Elliott & Beverly, 2011). CSAs also connect households to mainstream financial institutions (Friedline, 2014), activating families to save for their children’s futures and their later financial well-being.
San Francisco’s Kindergarten-to-College (K2C) is a Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program that provides a savings account to all kindergartners in the public school system to save for postsecondary education. This study is the first analysis of families’ contributions to the K2C accounts and how those contributions vary by student characteristic and school context. Following a review of existing research regarding college saving by American families in general and, specifically, by those participating in other CSA programs, this study examines contributions as one manifestation of families’ engagement with the K2C accounts. In addition, the study explores how the particular features of the K2C program manifest in asset accumulation and contribution activity, as well as how individual and school-level characteristics may influence observed interactions with the K2C accounts. This research provides insights into a CSA program that is the oldest and one of the largest in the country, and it offers lessons for policymakers and CSA administrators considering interventions to encourage college saving among families with school-age children.
Metropolitan areas are places where the majority of residents in the US live and work. Each of these areas has unique features regarding education, employment, public transit options, arts, recreation, and worship opportunities. Each metropolitan area also has a unique financial services landscape – a mix of both mainstream and alternative financial services, which may offer households different types of products and services to help manage resources and make ends meet.
While prior research has examined the geo-spatial distribution of mainstream and alternative financial services within particular cities and metropolitan areas, little is known about how the availability of these services varies across metropolitan areas for the entire country. For instance, what is the availability of financial services in the Kansas City area, where the “snowbelt” city’s poverty rate is slightly higher than the national average, 30% of residents are Black, the population is growing, and the Federal Reserve and FDIC both have branches? And, how does the availability of Kansas City area’s financial services compare to that of the Detroit area, where the “rustbelt” city’s poverty rate is nearly three times the national average, 83% of residents are Black, the population is shrinking, and major manufacturing companies are closing? Or the Riverside, CA area, a “sunbelt” city located in the San Joaquin Valley with an agriculture-based economy, a poverty rate that is higher than the national average, and a Latino population of 48%? Variation in this availability may indicate that households living in different communities have greater or lesser access to financial services to promote financial stability.
Using financial services and community demographic data for 356 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) across the US, we compared the concentrations or densities of bank and credit union branches and alternative financial services.
Despard, M., & Friedline, T. (2017). Do metropolitan areas have equal access to banking? A geographic investigation of financial services availability. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, & Inclusion (AEDI).
At its inception, the Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC) offered a $500 grant to every Maine resident infant for whom a NextGen account was opened by the baby’s first birthday. Enrollment involved a two-step process, including an addendum to the NextGen application, required in order to accept the Alfond Grant. While the money for the $500 HACC grants comes entirely from the Harold Alfond Foundation (a private family foundation) and is granted initially to the Alfond Scholarship Foundation (a 501(c)3 nonprofit) before being invested for eligible Maine babies, the state is an important partner, providing the delivery system of the 529 college savings plan (NextGen), matching and auto-funding incentive grants, and data-sharing. NextGen accountholders can get a 50% match on their contributions, automatically deposited for qualifying contributions, up to a maximum annual match of $300, with no lifetime limit or income threshold1. In addition, NextGen accounts set up with automatic deposits are eligible for a one-time additional $100 match from Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). Accountholders who make contributions to NextGen accounts may also benefit from tax advantages associated with 529s.
New This report provides a preliminary descriptive examination of aspects of Maine’s Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC) Children’s Savings Account (CSA) Program1. Specifically, the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion (AEDI) uses data provided by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) for NextGen College Investing Plan, Maine’s 529 college savings plan (NextGen or Next College Investing Plan) accounts opened as part of the HACC pilot in 2008 and the statewide opt-in CSA program in 2009-2013 to consider how account opening and family contribution differ by family income and across time, as well as how family saving and HACC features contribute to asset accumulation by these households.
This report is the first product of a research partnership between the Alfond Scholarship Foundation and AEDI. Future research will center on more rigorous analysis of the savings data described here, as well as examination of outcomes for children enrolled after the Harold Alfond College Challenge shifted in March 2014 to automatically award the $500 Alfond Grant to all children born Maine residents, rather than requiring families to first open a NextGen account. Additional research will also include qualitative consideration of families’ experiences with the HACC and planned surveys to assess effects on academic achievement, college-saver identity development, and educational expectations in both the opt-in and current, opt-out, iterations of the HACC. Given the prominence of the Harold Alfond College Challenge in the CSA field, considering how Maine’s CSA is affecting financial and other preparation for college and how those effects may transform children’s outcomes may have important policy implications.
Children’s savings accounts (CSAs) seek to build assets for children to use for long-term investments such as college or other postsecondary education. Although CSAs are administered through financial institutions such as banks or state 529 college savings plans, CSAs are more than just accounts. They include features such as initial deposits and savings matches to make saving easier and more successful, particularly for families disadvantaged by low incomes and/or other obstacles.