“With investments starting at just $1,000 per newborn, the next generation of New Yorkers will be better prepared to thrive.”

baby bonds announcement 2021

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

My wife and I are about to have our first baby. I’m over the moon.

I want to do everything I can to prepare for this new addition. We’ve bought books, moved into a new apartment, and have been getting advice (solicited and unsolicited) from just about everybody. Something else we’re doing is opening a 529 savings account for this future child, where we’ll make a deposit for their future—a small down payment on their education.

We’re lucky that we can put a few bucks away for this baby, but we know that many New Yorkers aren’t able to do the same. But what if everybody could? What if New York invested in the future of our city by investing in future New Yorkers?

Baby bonds, a seed account granted to every child and placed in a trust as they grow, is our opportunity to do just that. The concept is simple at its core: just give babies some money and let it grow into a fund that can be used for education, buying a home, starting a business, or otherwise enriching their lives. With investments starting at just $1,000 per newborn, the next generation of New Yorkers will be better prepared to thrive.

This idea sounds radical at first, but it is a proven policy. Connecticut introduced a similar program last year, and nearly 8,000 babies have already qualified. Washington DC implemented bonds in 2021. California has a pilot program, and over a dozen other states have considered this proposal in some form. On the federal level, Senator Cory Booker and Representative Ayanna Presley introduced legislation for federal baby bonds in 2021 and again in 2023.

In New York City, the de Blasio administration took some initial steps towards a baby bonds program, and non-profit NYC Kids RISE has supported modest scholarship accounts for kindergarteners. These are positive developments, but far from a comprehensive, needle-moving program.

Done right, baby bonds are the rare breed of policy that pays off both immediately and far into the future, for both those in diapers and not.

Today, the median net worth of a white family in the United States is eight times higher than that of a Black family. According to Morningstar research, baby bonds could potentially reduce this racial wealth gap by as much as two-thirds. In just one generation, this policy could dramatically change the trajectory of entire communities.

It’s no secret that the price of education has skyrocketed in the past several decades and only promises to continue its steady climb. Today’s average cost of a public university is 23 times higher than in 1963, and between 2010 and 2022 alone, average tuition increased by 12 percent annually. As debate continues to rage over student loan forgiveness, baby bonds could make sure that we’re the last generation to suffer this burden.

As with all policies that dial back the pressure of New York’s extreme cost of living, baby bonds can unlock the creative and entrepreneurial vibrancy of our city’s incredible people. Knowing you have some cushion (as a parent or as a grown beneficiary of the bonds) allows you to take risks, to open up that new bakery or shoot that movie that you’ve been dreaming of. And we’re all better off when this happens—whether we have jobs on set or we simply get to eat those delicious croissants.

Lastly, baby bonds can help extinguish the worry that I hear from so many of my peers: that New York isn’t a place where you can raise kids. I’ve witnessed so many friends leave town to seek more space, family support, good schools, and the other comforts that this city can be too stingy with when it comes to building a family. Each time one of our neighbors leaves this city, the lights shine a little dimmer, and the promise of New York is a little duller.

This policy is popular. In a recent YouGov survey, 61 percent of voters supported some form of baby bonds. And this policy is possible. Our neighbors in Connecticut have proven so, and years of research across disciplines shows the positive Return on investment (ROI) of increased economic security.

Investing directly in our next generation will make us a more equitable, smarter, and dynamic city. Most of all, it will show that we are committed to the next generation—that this city isn’t just a playground for recent college grads or a vertical office park for commuters but a place where families can live a full life.

That’s the city that I want my kid to grow up in.

Ben Guttmann is a marketing executive, adjunct professor at Baruch College, and non-profit board member. He is the author of Simply Put: Why Clear Messages Win – and How to Design Them (Berrett-Koehler Publishers).