Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion

Part of the explanation for rising inequity in educational attainment between disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers may be found in the different access to capital development—human and financial—afforded to these groups of children, within U.S. policy structures. Where wealthy children benefit from their families’ ability to make college a likely part of their future, low-income children are more likely to perceive increasing college costs as insurmountable burdens. Where wealthy families receive considerable tax benefits from participating in state 529 college savings plans, low-income families participating in means-tested public assistance face strict penalties if they save money. These inequities are manifest, then, in lower college enrollment and graduation rates for disadvantaged children, and we collectively pay the price in lost productivity and a constrained ability to compete in the global economy.

To the extent to which evidence suggests that assets can alter these educational trajectories, CSA policy may be considered an investment in our shared future. CSAs would provide an alternative to current consumption-based welfare supports for low-income households and may help to close the gaps by using the lever of U.S. policy commitment to provide disadvantaged children with access to transformative asset development.

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Citation

Lewis, M., Elliott, W., Cramer, R. and Black, R. (2013). Investing in our future: Moving from adequacy to asset-building, and improving educational outcomes (Chapter 6 – Brief 2). In W. Elliott (Ed.), Giving children a financial stake in college: Are CSAs a way to help maximize financial aid dollars? (Biannual Report on the Assets and Education Field). Lawrence, KS: Assets and Education Initiative.

Children's Savings Account Brief Year 2013