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.
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.