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2018 Prosperity Summit Prominently Showcases Children's Savings Accounts

During the 2018 Prosperity Summit, Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) received a big platform when four trailblazing mayors—Melvin Carter of Saint Paul, MN; Libby Schaaf of Oakland, CA; Michael Tubbs of Stockton, CA and Victoria Woodards of Tacoma, WA—discussed how they’re championing CSAs in their cities. For example, Mayor Carter discussed how a 30-person task force from a diverse array of community members is helping to design Saint Paul’s program, which will be the first municipal-level, universal, at-birth CSA program. 

That plenary, “Bending Towards Justice: Perspectives on the Long Game,” was one of many instances that lifted CSAs as a tool to address economic inequality during our biennial conference, which had more than 1,100 attendees. 

Prosperity Now held several events and sessions focused specifically on CSAs at the Summit, including a pre-conference for 65 leaders in the CSA field, a three-hour “clinic” that included presentations from local and statewide CSA programs as well as personalized consultations with experienced practitioners; and four concurrent sessions.

At the state and local CSA policy session, Kaohly Her, Policy Director for Mayor Melvin Carter; St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Pennsylvania Deputy State Treasurer Jack Stollsteimer spoke with Prosperity Now’s Shira Markoff about effective strategies to build support for CSAs across the political spectrum. The panelists identified the advantages and disadvantages of setting up CSA programs from a legislative or administrative path. Stollsteimer said that when trying to start a program from the legislature, compromises are inevitable. Markoff noted that, on the other hand, CSA programs set up administratively run the risk of elimination when political offices turn over.

The panelists also discussed common arguments against CSAs and ways to address them. Stollsteimer touched on an argument some people make from a progressive political standpoint—that CSAs do not address inequality if they offer the same initial deposit amount to everyone. He responded that programs can offer progressive incentives, such as giving additional deposits to children who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

These concerns about inequality came up in other events during the Summit, including a panel during the CSA pre-conference that featured leaders in the children’s savings field discussing how to combine CSAs with other policies and address wealth inequality. Martha Kanter of the College Promise Campaign discussed making college free or debt-free, and University of Michigan Professor William Elliott spoke about his pilot program with Promise Indiana to provide reward card rebates on grocery store purchases into CSAs. Elliott said that this pilot would enable low-income families who may not otherwise be able to save to put money into their CSA.

To see speaker presentations and handouts from the CSA clinic and concurrent sessions, visit the Prosperity Summit website.

Prosperity Now would like to thank the Prudential Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation for their generous, ongoing support of Prosperity Now’s CSA work and the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future, which enabled us to hold the CSA pre-conference.