Building Assets: An Impact Evaluation of the MI SEED Children’s Savings Program
In 2004, the Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency (OLHSA) in Pontiac, Michigan began to implement a program to provide college savings accounts for a group of 3- and 4-year old children attending Head Start. The program—referred to as MI SEED—incorporated a quasi-experimental research design, using treatment and comparison groups, to ascertain its impact. Children of treatment group members attended one of seven Head Start centers; children of comparison group members attended one of another seven Head Start centers matched to the first set on various socioeconomic factors. The program was part of a national initiative, Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship, and Downpayment (SEED).
Treatment group families were offered an initial deposit of $800 into the Michigan Education Savings Plan (a 529 account) on behalf of the focal child and almost all were eligible for an additional $200 gift from the state of Michigan, so almost all who opened a MI SEED account began with $1,000 in SEED savings. Subsequent deposits made on behalf of the focal child were eligible for a 1:1 match up to a maximum of $1,200. Comparison group families were not offered these benefits. The first accounts were opened in December 2004; the experiment ended 4 years later. All else being equal, any measured differences between the treatment and comparison groups by the end of the experiment can be attributed to MI SEED.