San Francisco's Kindergarten-to-College initiative is a tremendously important part of the Children's Savings Account field. Created in 2020, it was the first publicly-funded, universal CSA program in the U.S., and it today includes more than 13,000 accounts.
To date, however, there has been little research into K2C's operations or its outcomes. Started by San Francisco's Office of Financial Empowerment and administered through the public school system, K2C was championed by people who care deeply about children in the community and believe in the promise of assets to chart improved future trajectories for their studies, and their lives, not by researchers equipped to design and execute a rigorous evaluation. K2C's leadership very much wants help answering some of their questions about K2C's effects, however, and to document outcomes the program is realizing. For the past several months, then, AEDI has been in close conversations with K2C about how a research effort could constructed, to increase their own knowledge about their program, and to provide critical insights for the CSA field as a whole.
While AEDI's work on a K2C research initiative is still in the early stages, the project has taken shape, and we are very optimistic about its utility to K2C directly, and to others who have long watched San Francisco as a prominent example of what a CSA is and can be. The components of the research include:
- A process evaluation, to assess implementation of K2C, including perspectives of parents and children (those saving in their accounts and those not), contributions and challenges from the perspectives of teachers and school administrators, and the operation of the CSA from the point of view of the participating financial institution
- K2C leaders have questions about what differentiates high-saving schools from those with lower rates of savings activity, as well as questions about how the accounts are experienced by those who are saving themselves and those who have not yet begun to deposit. In interviews and focus groups, as well as reviews of the K2C intervention itself (materials, outreach, activities), AEDI research will explore these and other questions.
- We will also begin to explore potential community-level effects of the CSA, including how K2C may be helping to shape a college-going culture in the area.
- An examination of the effects of K2C on academic achievement, using a regression discontinuity design that compares students before and after the cutoff for K2C eligibility
- This part of the research will utilize data from the San Francisco school district, including reading and math scores, to determine effects on educational outcomes that themselves correlate with greater ultimate academic achievement.
- Test of a CSA-strengthening curriculum that delivers financial education specifically focused on saving and how cultivating savings behaviors can lead to greater financial success
- AEDI has designed, in partnership with solution-focused brief therapy experts, a financial education program explicitly crafted to support Children's Savings Account programming. The K2C research will evaluate the contributions of this approach to outcomes within the CSA.
This research will be conducted over the next few years, with regular release of related products, including reports, academic literature, webinars, evaluation instruments, and briefs. We welcome questions about the research process and look forward to sharing findings as they emerge. San Francisco's Kindergarten-to-College investment has been significant. Its impact on the field has been sizable, catalyzing innovation and replication, and helping to push the CSA idea into the policy mainstream. In this project, we hope to shed greater light on how K2C operates, which elements are essential, what effects can be attributed to this CSA, and, then, what it might take to get transformative assets into the lives--and accounts--of every American child.