Identifying Short Term Outcome Metrics for Evaluating Whether Children's Savings Accounts Programs Are on Track Identifying Short Term Outcome Metrics for Evaluating Whether Children's Savings Accounts Programs Are on Track

By William Elliott III and Kelly Harrington

Children's Savings Account (CSA) programs are long-range investments starting at a child's birth or upon entry into kindergarten but not coming fully to fruition until a child reaches college age. Without clear indications of interim progress over such a long time span, maintaining support for CSAs is difficult. Thus, it is imperative that CSA stakeholders have real-time information for decision making.In this brief, we identify theoretically and empirically based interim metrics for evaluating whether a CSA program is on track to improve college attainment among participants long before they reach the age of postsecondary enrollment. Given the newness of CSA programs, there is limited research on the direct relationship between CSA participation and children?s educational outcomes, particularly beyond the early childhood years. Therefore, while evidence for some metrics is based on research from a randomized control trial of CSAs, many of the existing studies use bank savings accounts dedicated to educational purposes as a proxy for potential CSA program effects. Given the limitations of studying this still-emerging field, the interim metrics identified in this brief should only be considered as a starting point for determining best practices to evaluate CSA program effectiveness. Only through clearly articulating the intended outcomes, studying the contributors to those factors, and testing of the effects of CSAs, can an exact set of measures be identified. Because the body of CSA evidence is continuing to evolve, this evaluation should be considered not only summative?that is, assessing the extent to which programs are on track to reach their goals?but also formative, given that attending to interim financial and academic measures may facilitate CSA design and modification so as to maximize the likelihood of potential beneficial effects.

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