Friedline, T., Scanlon, E., Johnson, T., & Elliott W. (accepted). Educational and Financial Institutions Partnering to Implement CSAs: Evaluation of Financial Partners' Perspectives from the 2011 GEAR UP Invitational Priority. Journal of Community Practice
Although some racial inequalities have lessened in the half-century since the passage of the first major civil rights legislation, the racial wealth gap remains and in recent years seems to be widening. Households with children are the least likely to be asset secure or have sufficient resources to enable investment in opportunities for mobility. Viewing inequality from this perspective indicates that what households are able to save and invest for the future might have a more lasting impact on the life chances of children than their current income and consumption. Summarizing data from the Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship, and Downpayment (SEED) Initiative, a quasi-experimental study that is part of a national demonstration of Child Development Accounts (CDAs) in the United States, this paper describes how African-American households engage with one important investment opportunity - college savings accounts for their pre-school children. Combining account monitoring, survey, interview and focus group data, we explore the reasons that many households chose not to open accounts or invest their own money. We offer suggestions for making asset development programs viable for low-income African-American families and their children.
Shanks, T., Nicoll, K., & Johnson, T. (2014). Assets and African Americans: Attempting to capitalize on hopes for children through college savings accounts. The Review of Black Political Economy, 41 (3) 337-356.
The federally funded Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP) is one of the most widely known U.S. programs which attempts to increase college enrollment and completion rates among disadvantaged students. GEAR UP has three main aims specifically targeted toward disadvantaged students historically underrepresented in higher education: (1) to increase academic performance and preparation for higher education, (2) to increase the rates of high school graduation and participation in higher education, and (3) to increase students’ and families’ knowledge of higher education options, including academic preparation and financing.
In 2011, an invitational priority was announced by the Department of Education (DOE) that encouraged grant applicants to include financial access and Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) in their programming for students and their families. In a September press release, DOE announced 66 new GEAR UP grantees from the 2011 application cycle. Nineteen grantees were state entities and 47 were community-education partnerships.
In 2012, researchers from the Assets and Education Initiative (AEDI) at the University of Kansas launched a multi-method evaluation of 2011 GEAR UP grantees who accepted the invitational priority. AEDI combed through the GEAR UP applications and identified 33 grantees that explicitly stated in their abstracts the intention to open CSAs and/or teach financial education to students and their families. Among these 33 grantees, 25 programs completed AEDI’s initial survey. AEDI selected five programs to participate in a follow-up survey and in-depth interviews and focus groups during on-site visits. The study aimed to answer four primary research questions: (1) How well prepared do GEAR UP programs perceive themselves to be for planning and implementing CSAs? (2) What steps have GEAR UP programs taken to plan and implement CSAs? (3) What obstacles have GEAR UP programs encountered? and (4) What strategies have GEAR UP programs used to overcome obstacles that they encountered?
Economic strains play an important factor in students not only dropping out of school but also for not being able to attend college. As the cost of college tuition increases, many youths may perceive that the possibility of attending college may be out of their reach for financial reasons. Using data drawn from the savings for education, entrepreneurship, and down-payment initiative participants, this study explores asset building through a child savings account (CSA) program aimed at removing economic barriers to higher education for youths with financial needs. Concept mapping analysis was used to better understand how assets obtained through CSAs affect high school students' academic and behavior goals from a nonprofit youth development program in San Francisco, CA. Results show students find the CSA program helpful in learning fiscal management and saving for postsecondary education. All students rated the clusters on savings for education and fiscal education as being very important for their academic and career success and reported mostly big changes since participation in San Francisco SEED Program.
Kim, J.S., & Johnson, T. (2012). The academic and behavioral effects of a child savings accounts program on at-risk high school students. School Social Work Journal, 37(1), 75-95.
National and international reports have established the legitimate use of child savings accounts (CSAs) as asset-building vehicles for youths. However, many U.S. programs report difficulty in recruiting parents for CSA programs and note the failure of some parents to take full advantage of the financial match available when they do participate. This article reports some of the findings from a mixed-method study that examines a group of African American parents' involvement with a U.S. child savings account program known as Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship, and Downpayment (SEED). The elements that parents perceive to be critical to a CSA program are identified and those elements are then examined as they relate to the SEED program. Analyses revealed six themes where elements that parents identified as important were also elements that were frequently demonstrated in the SEED program. However, the study uncovered serious challenges encountered by the SEED staff and lessons learned in the process. Findings present information that may help increase African American-American parent involvement in CSAs and other asset-building programs.
Johnson. T (2011). Socio-economic and institutional factors that facilitate and prevent low income African American Parents’ Involvement in a Children’s Savings Program. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 20(3), 167-183.
Policies and programs designed to help low-income families save and build assets for developmental uses such as higher education, homeownership, and entrepreneurship are emerging and growing globally. This study uses participatory concept mapping techniques to explore perspectives of low-income parents in a children's college savings account program in a large US city. Participants in this study worked together to generate data on effective components of child savings account (CSA) programs. They then sorted these CSA components into conceptual groups reflecting their perspectives on which of the program elements were related to one another. Finally, participants were asked to rate the importance of each CSA component. Findings suggest that parents view CSA components that: (1) demonstrate respect for parents and (2) enhance accountability as being particularly effective and important elements of matched saving programs. While much more research is needed, particularly with lower-income families and communities, these findings are consistent with an emerging institutional theory of saving and asset accumulation. Implications for institutional theory, asset-building policies, CSA programs, and future research are discussed.
Johnson, T. , Adams, D., & Kim, J.(2010). Mapping the perspectives of low-income parents in a children’s college savings account program. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(1), 129-136.