Material Hardship and 529 College Savings Plan Participation: The Mitigating Effects of Child Development Accounts

Publication Date



In 2007, the SEED for Oklahoma Kids (SEED OK) experiment began testing a universal and progressive Child Development Account (CDA) policy. Designed for all households, including those that lack the resources to participate in and benefit from other asset-building policies, the CDA in SEED OK is automatically opened and seeded with an initial deposit, and the progressive savings incentive is greater for low- and moderate-income families than for high-income ones. Assets in the account are designated for postsecondary education. This article discusses SEED OK’s rigorous research design and early findings. As intended, the CDA in SEED OK delivers college accounts and assets to all children, regardless of socioeconomic status. Because disadvantaged children are otherwise less likely to have college accounts and assets, the CDA has greater positive impacts on disadvantaged children than advantaged children. The CDA also has positive effects on parents’ expectations for their children’s educational attainment and on children’s social-emotional development. It reduces symptoms of depression in mothers. Again, the impacts of the CDA are often greater for disadvantaged families. The authors conclude by considering the implications of these findings.

Document Type



Financial Inclusion


Asset Building

Original Citation

Wikoff, N., Huang, J., Kim, Y., & Sherraden, M. (2015). Material hardship and 529 college savings plan participation: The mitigating effects of Child Development Accounts. Social Science Research, 50, 189–202. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.11.017


SEED for Oklahoma Kids


CDA, child development account, college savings, college savings plan, economic resources, well-being, asset accumulation, assets, child development, child outcomes, child savings, children, college expectations, economic opportunity, economic strategies, educational expectations, policy, policy design, poor, poverty, program, saving, savings, social inclusion, social policy, state policy, United States, youth, youth savings, material hardship, SEED OK