Israel's Universal CSA
The Center for Social Development (CSD) at Washington University in St. Louis has long been the epicenter of the asset-building movement. Directed by Dr. Michael Sherraden, whose 1991 book Assets and the Poor catapulted the concept of asset-based welfare onto the policy mainstream, CSD has helped to design many major asset development initiatives and produced gold-standard evidence of assets’ effects on the well-being of children and their families. The most recent example of CSD’s policy influence is in Israel, where the work of CSD’s associate director, Dr. Michal Grinstein- Weiss (pictured at left), has contributed to enactment of universal children’s savings accounts. The policy, slated to take effect in January 2017, was heavily informed by CSD’s research, policy demonstrations, and ongoing consultation with Israeli government leaders. Israel’s policy will build on the country’s child allowance, a monthly entitlement grant provided to families with children, to provide monthly deposits for accountholders beginning at birth. At age 18, recipients can access the funds in their accounts for education, entrepreneurship, marriage, or homeownership. At age 21, funds are accessible with no restrictions. Each child will receive deposits of 50 shekels per month, equivalent to $13.20, in addition to the existing child allowance. While relatively small, these deposits are expected to grow into more sizable balances over the long period of accumulation. Additionally, families’ access to the universal children’s accounts may catalyze other saving, toward the policy’s aims to position children to transition to financially-secure adulthood and reduce wealth inequity. Israel’s child savings account policy will likely have ramifications far beyond the individuals aided. The nation’s efforts may inform other attempts to align income supports and asset building. We look forward to witnessing the inception and evolution of Israel’s children’s asset development approach.