Impacts of Child Development Accounts on maternal depressive symptoms: evidence from a randomized statewide policy experiment

Soc Sci Med. 2014 Jul:112:30-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.04.023. Epub 2014 Apr 18.


This study examines the impact of Child Development Accounts (CDAs)-asset-building accounts created for children at birth-on the depressive symptoms of mothers in a statewide randomized experiment conducted in the United States. The experiment identified the primary caregivers of children born in Oklahoma during 2007, and 2704 of the caregivers completed a baseline interview before random assignment to the treatment (n = 1358) or the control group (n = 1346). To treatment participants, the experiment offered CDAs built on the existing Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan. The baseline and follow-up surveys measured the participants' depressive symptoms with a shortened version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). In models that control for baseline CES-D scores, the mean follow-up score of treatment mothers is .17 lower than that of control mothers (p < .05). Findings suggest that CDAs have a greater impact among subsamples that reported lower income or lower education. Although designed as an economic intervention for children, CDAs may improve parents' psychological well-being. Findings also suggest that CDAs' impacts on maternal depressive symptoms may be partially mediated through children's social-emotional development.

Keywords: Asset building; Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D); Child Development Accounts; Economic intervention; Maternal depressive symptoms; Saving; Social–emotional development; United States.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Oklahoma
  • Qualitative Research
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult