Panel Paper: Housing Volatility Among the Cohort of Head Start Families in Michigan SEED

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Wright (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Trina Shanks and Anne Blumenthal, University of Michigan

Envisioned as a way to improve well-being through financial stability, child savings accounts (CSAs) have been linked to important educational outcomes for children. Much of the US-specific research on CSAs comes from the Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship, and Downpayment (SEED) initiative that implemented CSAs in 12 sites across the country. This study is part of a unique mixed methods long-term follow-up of pre-school participants from Michigan SEED (MI-SEED) who are now in high school. The original intervention took place between 2004 and 2009, ending just as the housing crisis and Great Recession was devastating the economic security of many families and communities in the state. This study examines the residential circumstances of participant families and explores two key questions: (1) What is the housing situation of all families at baseline and at the time of the follow-up survey? (2) What are patterns of residential stability among households participating in the long-term follow-up, and more specifically how is housing related to educational expectations?


The MI-SEED program was designed as a quasi-experimental comparison of seven treatment and seven control Head Start centers. Caregivers of 790 children across all 14 centers were invited to complete a baseline interview in 2004 and a Wave 2 survey in 2008. Caregivers with children enrolled in treatment Head Start centers were offered a CSA with an initial $800 deposit, matched by a $200 state deposit, and were also encouraged to take advantage of a 1-to-1 match. The 2014/2015 component followed up with several families who took part in the original study. We conducted 50 in-depth semi-structured interviews with participants recruited from the list of prior survey respondents. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded thematically by three independent coders.


At Wave one, 27% of survey respondents were homeowners. At Wave two, 32% of respondents were homeowners. The majority of respondents were never homeowners (59.3%) and a few were homeowners at both time periods (19.7%). The remainder either started out as homeowners, but no longer owned that home by the second interview (8.8%) or started out as a non-homeowner, but had purchased a home by the second interview (12.2%). From the in-depth interviews, we have qualitative data on how and why people purchase homes or rent and whether they are happy with their current circumstances. Among homeowners, some have been stable owners for many years. A few used money from inheritance or other windfalls to buy a home; others double up to pay expenses and reside as multiple families. Among renters, a few are long-term residents, but many move frequently. Whether moving into a home or different rental situation, the reason given is usually to live in better neighborhoods with better schools and areas that are safer.


For low-income households, maintaining residential stability can be difficult. Many face undesirable situations due to unemployment, foreclosures, and severe housing burdens. Others make great sacrifices to live in areas that offer opportunity for their children. Making housing more affordable and neighborhoods less unequal could greatly reduce familial stress.