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Massachusetts CSA Advocates Turn the Tide in Their Favor

Massachusetts recently made headlines for becoming the first state to bar employers from asking about applicants’ salaries before offering them a job. The new law requires hiring managers to offer applicants salary figures upfront based on their potential worth, rather than their previous pay. The New York Times called it, “A groundbreaking effort to close the wage gap between men and women.”

But more quietly, Massachusetts is enacting another policy to increase economic opportunity for marginalized people.

The Massachusetts state legislature overrode a veto from Governor Charlie Baker for the 2017 fiscal year state budget. The budget funds a pilot Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program for low-income residents in grades 7-12. A public/private partnership will establish a two-year CSA for low-income residents in at least five towns throughout Massachusetts.

Bob Hildreth (right) and Charlie Desmond, Inversant’s CEO

Inversant, a college access program located in Boston and one of CFED’s 1:1 Fund partners, fought for the passage of the CSA funding. After the governor’s veto, Inversant founder Bob Hildreth said that Inversant continued its strong advocacy. Inversant members visited the Massachusetts House of Representatives to see as many legislators as possible and argue in favor of the CSA program.

“We went into the House with our Inversant t-shirts, which are a bright teal color, like the Miami Dolphins,” Hildreth said. “We went right into the House Ways and Means Committee. We’d go in one door, and the official would say, ‘No, that person isn’t available.’ Then we’d go to another door, and the secretary would make that person available. I could’ve almost seen something like that on a TV program.”

Although this new CSA program is just a two-year pilot, it has the potential to make lasting positive impacts on numerous Massachusetts students. Children with savings accounts dedicated for college education are four times more likely to attend college than those without savings, even after controlling for factors like household income. Research on CSAs have helped debunk the myth that low-income people do not save when they have the ability to do so.

With the funding now intact, Hildreth said that now his organization’s efforts will move toward working with the state’s Treasury Department to help develop and promote the program. With inequality in Massachusetts among the most severe in the nation, Hildreth said he is most looking forward to getting the recruitment right. He noted that a unique feature of this CSA pilot is the inclusion of college access classes for parents, which can help lessen inequality.

“This is Massachusetts, so people are very concerned with economic reform,” he said. “We have the deepest amount of inequality, especially over indices like education … The missing element from education is parent engagement, and CSAs are a way in.”

For more information about children’s savings policy, including sample state legislation and tools to help make the case to legislators, visit