Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion

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For many children, especially minority and low-income children, attending college is a genuinely desired but elusive goal. Research on aspirations and expectations may provide a way to understand the gap between what children desire and what they actually expect to happen. This study examines the potential role of Children's Development Accounts (CDAs) as a way to reduce the aspirations and expectations gap among at risk children using Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) data. While the vast majority of children without a CDA aspire to attend college (80%), only 39% see it as a realistic possibility in their lives. That is an aspirations/expectations gap of 41 percentage points. Moreover, children with a CDA are nearly twice as likely to expect to attend college than children without a CDA. It appears that when the financing of college is perceived as being under children's own control, college attendance may become more of a reality. Children with a CDA are not only more likely to expect to attend college, they perform better in school. Having a CDA is associated with a 4.57 point increase in math scores. Moreover, findings suggest that children's college expectations act as a partial mediator between CDAs and children's math achievement.


Elliott, W. (2009). Children’s college aspirations and expectations: The potential role of college development accounts (CDAs). Children and Youth Services Review, 31(2), 274-283.

Children's Savings Account Journal Article Year 2009