Publication Date



Large disparities in attendance and graduation rates exist between White and Black young adults. We find that 63% of White young adults between the ages of 17 to 23 are on course (i.e., either in college or have graduated from college) in 2007 compared to only 35% of Black young adults. Moreover, research suggests that Black young adults who manage to stay on course and graduate are facing ever increasing amounts of college debt. Debt can lessen the return on education, making college appear less desirable for future generations. Thus, finding novel and promising ways to promote college progress that do not rely on debt accumulation is a growing concern for policymakers. Child Development Accounts (CDAs) have been proposed as a potentially novel and promising policy mechanism for financing college. This study provides an advance test of CDAs. Using separate samples of White and Black young adults, multivariate analyses reveal that young adults who have school savings as adolescents are approximately two time more likely to be on course (enrolled in college or have already graduated from college) regardless of race. Moreover, net worth has a positive association with whether White young adults are on course but not Black young adults. We conclude that policies such as universal CDAs that can help parents and adolescents accumulate savings—especially savings for college—may be a simple and effective strategy for helping to keep both White and Black young adults “on course” in their college education and out of debt.

Document Type

Working Paper


Financial Inclusion


Asset Building


Subsequent publication: Elliott, W., III, & Nam, I. (2011). Direct effects of assets and savings on the college progress of Black young adults. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(1), 89–108. doi:10.3102/0162373711425957

Original Citation

Elliott, W., III, & Nam, I. (2011). Direct effects of assets and savings on the college progress of Black young adults (CSD Working Paper No. 11-14). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.


College Success


college savings, assets, college degree attainment, college enrollment, child development account, child savings account, PSID, race