Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Rand Quinn

Abstract

This qualitative study explores the case of Children’s Savings Accounts or CSAs (also called Child Development Accounts or CDAs) by constructing a case study that includes both the national landscape of CSAs and a focal CSA program. Through a corpus of over 150 texts related to CSAs, 30 semi-structured interviews with proponents and supporters, and participant observation of CSA meetings and conferences and program activities for over one year, this study explores the role of framing and cultural discourses in making CSAs more focused on education. This shift occurred in how proponents talk about them, frame them, and how they are implemented. Though proponents initially framed CSAs as solving problems of welfare and poverty in the early 1990s, over the last three decades, proponents shifted toward framing CSAs in terms of educational aspirations and attainment. This educational aspiration frame resonates with cultural discourses about education and social mobility and serves to create consensus among diverse policy designs across the national landscape of CSA programs. Proponents today frame CSAs as a solution for educational problems such as racialized achievement gaps. This framing shapes the meaning of CSAs and their implementation: schools are seen as crucial partners as CSAs attempt to build ‘college-bound identity’ and metrics like academic achievement are proposed for judging the success of CSAs for changing students’ orientation toward their futures. This case illuminates the role of framing and discourse in the process of educationalization, wherein broader social problems are transformed into educational problems and the implications of this process for the organizational structures and practices. These practices elaborate and institutionalize CSAs in particular ways. This study contributes conceptually to identifying mechanisms of educationalization and implications of educational frames ‘winning out’ over other alternative frames for new social policies.

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