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In a global economy, people require ongoing investment to remain competitive and successful. Research suggests that having savings and other assets (owning a house, for example) is as important for people’s long-term development as income. Therefore, programs that promote saving and accumulation of assets may be important to help people become and remain economically viable.
Children are in particular need of investment as they grow and develop into young adults. But statistics suggest that we are not investing sufficiently or effectively in our children. As of 2008, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) notes that “epidemic numbers of children” are at risk in the United States, with 5.8 million living in extreme poverty, teen pregnancy rates on the rise and educational achievement scores falling. In fact, among industrialized nations, the United States ranks 21st in science scores, 25th in math scores and last in three categories: child poverty, the gap between rich and poor, and adolescent birth rates.
Child development accounts (CDAs), first proposed in 1991 by Michael Sherraden, director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, offer an innovative approach to making long-term investments in America’s children.