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Universal accounts at birth: building knowledge to inform policy

Sherraden, Michael; Clancy, Margaret; Nam, Yunju; Huang, Jin; Kim, Youngmi; Beverly, Sondra; Mason, Lisa; Wikoff, Nora; Schreiner, Mark; Purnell, Jason


Michael Sherraden

Margaret Clancy

Yunju Nam

Jin Huang

Youngmi Kim

Sondra Beverly

Lisa Mason

Assistant Professor in Quantitative Methods

Mark Schreiner

Jason Purnell


Objective: This article summarizes the design, implementation, and early findings of a statewide randomized experiment of Child Development Accounts (CDAs). The SEED for Oklahoma Kids experiment (SEED OK) is testing a concept for a universal, progressive asset-building policy with potential for national application. CDAs can start as early as birth, providing structured opportunities (e.g., financial access, information, incentives) to encourage asset accumulation for postsecondary education and other developmental purposes. Theory and evidence suggest that CDAs can improve educational outcomes, especially among disadvantaged youth. Method: Participating in a rigorous randomized controlled design, primary caregivers of children born in Oklahoma in 2007 completed a baseline telephone survey before random assignment to the treatment group (n = 1,358) or control group (n = 1,346); these caregivers completed a followup survey 4 years later. For children in the treatment group, the SEED OK experiment automatically opened an Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan (OK 529) account with a $1,000 initial deposit. In addition, low- and moderate-income families in the treatment group were eligible for a savings match for deposits to their own OK 529 accounts. Results: Findings indicate that CDAs can be implemented universally in a full population to increase the accumulation of college assets. The CDA in SEED OK greatly reduces disparities in OK 529 asset accumulation associated with socioeconomic characteristics. The CDA also has positive effects on parental educational expectations for children, maternal depressive symptoms, and children’s social-emotional development. Conclusions: In contrast to college savings programs that require parents to open an account, SEED OK’s universal, automatic, and progressive CDA model gives all children the opportunity to benefit from college account and asset ownership.


Sherraden, M., Clancy, M., Nam, Y., Huang, J., Kim, Y., Beverly, S., …Purnell, J. (in press). Universal accounts at birth: building knowledge to inform policy. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 6(4),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 22, 2015
Online Publication Date Oct 7, 2015
Deposit Date Sep 25, 2017
Journal Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research
Print ISSN 2334-2315
Electronic ISSN 1948-822X
Publisher University of Chicago Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 4
Keywords asset building, Child Development Accounts, child savings accounts, college savings, 529 college savings plans, experiment, SEED for Oklahoma Kids, wealth, child development, education
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Winter 2015 issue.