Children's Savings Account (CSA) programs are long-term investments often starting at a child's birth or upon entry into kindergarten but not coming fully to fruition until a child reaches college age. Given this, many outcomes programs are most interested in, such as college enrollment, cannot be measured for many years after the program is started. Therefore, identifying interim outcomes that can provide some indication if the program is on course to reach its long-term goals is imperative (Elliott & Harrington, 2016). Parental and children’s educational expectations have been identified as an important interim measure for evaluating the success of CSA programs (Elliott & Harrington, 2016). In line with the importance of educational expectations, the growth in CSAs over the last five years has in a significant way been driven by previous research that shows a strong correlation between CSAs and children’s educational expectations (Elliott, 2009; Elliott, 2013; Elliott & Beverly, 2011a; Elliott & Beverly, 2012b; Elliott, Chowa, & Loke, 2011; Elliott, Song, & Nam, 2013) and a causal relationship between CSAs and parental expectations (Kim, Sherraden, Huang, & Clancy, 2015). It appears that the logic model, in some measure, is informed by this research. Educational expectations are a proxy for college bound identity (Elliott, 2013). We see establishing the logic model on this framework as a strength of the model.
Here we further specify this model. The college bound identity framework sprung out of research on Identity Based Motivation (IBM) theory. This body of research suggests that IBM acts as mediator between CSAs and children’s academic outcomes (Elliott, Choi, Destin, & Kim, 2011). Therefore, a fundamental mechanism explaining CSA effects on children’s academic outcomes is that school is experienced as identity-congruent (e.g., “people like me can succeed”) and relevant to future goals (Elliott, Destin, & Friedline, 2011; Oyserman, 2013). Cementing a financial pathway and investment for college early via a CSA sets clear expectations for college enrollment early in kindergarten, including strategies for attaining education goals for both students (initiative and persistence in the face of difficulty) and parents (involvement education and progress in school). These key components of IBM improve important self-regulatory outcomes for students (e.g., social-emotional development and college savings deposits) and parents (college savings outcomes, parental academic support, parental expectations, parental conversations about high school and beyond, and planning for college) which in turn improve academic achievement and college success. Indeed, the impact of IBM on self-regulatory behaviors and academic outcomes has been rigorously tested (Oyserman, Bybee, & Terry, 2006).