A Bright Future for Baby Bonds

By David Radcliffe and Shira Markoff | February 14, 2024

Baby Bonds are an increasingly popular government policy in which every child born into poverty receives a publicly funded trust account at birth, providing them with “start-up capital” to pursue fulfilling, productive, prosperous, and self-directed lives. Follow our Baby Blogs series to learn about the vision, politics, and people behind Baby Bonds and their transformative impact on the lives of young people, their families, and communities.

In January 2022, Prosperity Now and the Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy collaborated on the first paper to outline the essential elements of state and local-level Baby Bonds policies. Since then, state-level Baby Bonds have launched in Connecticut and became a hot policy topic from the halls of legislatures to the offices of state treasurers across the U.S. With momentum continuing to grow, we worked together to refresh the paper to reflect everything we’ve learned from these policy debates and the early implementation of the first Baby Bonds programs. We are excited to share the updated version of A Bright Future with Baby Bonds: How States and Cities Should Invest in Our Kids.

The new and improved paper draws on all the legislative efforts, deep policy conversations, and implementation work in the field over the past two years. Highlights of the remarkable progress in just the last year include:

Baby Bonds – The Right Policy at the Right Time

Looking around at all this activity, it’s fair to ask the question, what is it about Baby Bonds that has fueled this movement? It’s many factors, but the most obvious answer is that we’re talking about babies. The idea that a baby’s future could be limited for the simple reason that they are born into a family that lacks wealth to help them get their financial start in life is repugnant to most Americans of all political stripes.

Another element fueling the increased interest in Baby Bonds is that wealth inequality in the U.S. has become so stark—especially the racial wealth gap, along with divides between urban and rural areas—that it has become harder to ignore. The COVID-19 pandemic shined a particularly bright light on the divide. The issue of wealth inequality rose in American’s consciousness just as Sen. Booker and Rep. Pressley were touting the American Opportunity Accounts Act and state legislators were casting about for policy ideas to address the issue. It’s clear that Baby Bonds are the right policy at the right time. 

The Future’s So Bright

The growing support for Baby Bonds shows no signs of stopping. So far in 2024, Baby Bonds legislation is pending in several state legislatures, including Massachusetts, Washington and Vermont. And just in the last few weeks, Prosperity Now and the Institute have had the opportunity to speak alongside state treasurers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to draw even more attention to Baby Bonds. At the national level, TIME magazine recently highlighted Dr. Darrick Hamilton, the architect of Baby Bonds and our paper’s co-author, for his work to close the racial wealth gap through Baby Bonds. 

As the momentum behind Baby Bonds increases, we hope that this updated paper will give policymakers and advocates the tools to design and champion effective Baby Bonds policies and ensure the policy’s continued uptake across the country, because a bright future for Baby Bonds is a brighter future for all.

David Radcliffe is the State and Local Policy Director for the Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy. Prior to joining the Institute, David served as policy director for the Office of CT State Treasurer, where he supported implementation of the first-in-the-country “Baby Bonds” wealth building initiative. David was born in Ohio and grew up in a small factory town of the Appalachian foothills in western Pennsylvania. He has a strong passion for working with people to build places and economies where everyone can live happy, fulfilling, prosperous, and productive lives.

Shira Markoff is a Senior Policy Fellow at Prosperity Now, where she works to advance federal, state, and local policy priorities that promote systems-oriented solutions and racial economic justice. Shira’s work focuses on wealth-building policies and programs across the lifecycle, including Baby Bonds, Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs), guaranteed income, and two-generation/whole family approaches to building wealth.

If you missed previous installments of our Baby Blogs series, read them here

To share feedback on this blog, or for questions about Baby Bonds, email David Radcliffe at [email protected].

To learn more, explore our Baby Bonds resources.