Asset Building Briefs & Summaries Financial Inclusion

The Age Old Question, Which Comes First? A Simultaneous Test of Children’s Savings and Children’s College-Bound Identity

This brief summarizes the conduct and findings of a study on children’s savings and the development of a college-bound identity. The study has three goals: (1) to provide an extensive review of research on the assets/expectation relationship, (2) to provide a conceptual framework for how children’s savings effects children’s college-bound identity (children’s college expectations are a proxy for children’s college-bound identity), and (3) to conduct a simultaneous test of whether owning a savings account leads to college-bound identity or college-bound identity lead to owning a savings account using path analytic technique with Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). Our review reveals asset researchers theorize about college-bound identity in two distinct but compatible ways: college-bound identity as a “linking mechanism,” and college-bound identity as a mediator. However, there has been little theoretical development on the attitudinal effects of assets. In this study, we posit a conceptual framework for how children’s savings affects children’s college-bound identity. Findings from the simultaneous test of the assets/ college-bound identity relationship suggest that savings has modest effect on college-bound identity and vice versa. A policy implication is that asset building policies that seek to build children’s college-bound identity in addition to their savings may be more effective than policies that only seek to build children’s savings.

Details on the study and a full report of the findings may be found in CSD Working Paper 11-04, which was subsequently developed for publication in  Children and Youth Services Review.

Project: College Success


Elliott, W., III, Choi, E. H., Destin, M., & Kim, K. H. (2011, June). The age old question, which comes first? A simultaneous test of children’s savings and children’s college-bound identity (CSD Research Brief No. 11-17).  St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.