Asset Building Financial Inclusion Working Paper

Small-Dollar Children’s Savings Accounts, Income, and College Outcomes

In this paper, we examine the relationship between children’s small-dollar savings accounts and college enrollment and graduation by asking three important research questions: (a) are children with savings of their own more likely to attend or graduate from college, (b) does dosage (having no account; having basic savings only; or having savings designated for school of less than $1, $1 to $499, or $500 or more) matter, and (c) is designating savings for school more predictive than having basic savings alone? We use propensity score weighted data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and its supplements to create multi-treatment dosages of savings accounts and amounts to answer these questions separately for children from low- and moderate-income (LMI) (below $50,000; N = 512) and high-income (HI) ($50,000 or above; N = 345) households. We find that LMI children may be more likely to enroll in and graduate from college when they have small-dollar savings accounts with money designated for school. An LMI child with school savings of $1 to $499 before college age is more than three times more likely to enroll in college than an LMI child with no savings account and more than four and half times more likely to graduate. In addition, an LMI child with school savings of $500 or more is about five times more likely to graduate from college than a child with no savings account. Policy implications also are discussed.

Subsequent publication: Elliott, W., III, Song, H-a, and Nam, I. (2013). Small-dollar children’s saving accounts and children’s college outcomes by income level. Children & Youth Services Review, 35(3), 560–571. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.12.003

Project: College Success


Elliott, W., III, Song, H-a., & Nam, I. (2013). Small-dollar children’s savings accounts, income, and college outcomes (CSD Working Paper No. 13-06). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.