Ownership & Assets

On the Weekly Wonk: Reflecting Back on My Head Start

September 26, 2013

Editor's note: This essay by New America's Media Relations Associate, Jenny Lu Mallamo, originally appeared on our new digital magazine, the Weekly Wonk. A new edition of the Weekly Wonk comes out every Thursday.

"Did anyone here go to Head Start?”

It was an innocuous question, asked by my statistics professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  It might have been a rhetorical question, too, as the professor didn’t seem to expect anyone to speak up.

But I did, providing an empirical data point in our graduate seminar that was looking at the correlation between Head Start participation and academic success later in life – an academic discussion for everyone in the room but a personal one for me.

In 1990 and 1991, I attended a Head Start program in Lincoln, Nebraska, that offered classroom learning as well as home visits.  As a little girl of four, I thought that “Head Start” was the name of my pre-school. It was only later that I learned Head Start was a federal program that specifically prepares children from low-income families for school.

Tax Reform and Asset Building

September 25, 2013

On September 12th, 2013, Elliot Schreur presented "Tax Reform and Asset Building" to the 2013 National Community Tax Coalition conference.

You can find a copy of the presentation here.


Changing Federal Policy to Help Families Save

September 24, 2013

On September 20th, Rachel Black presented "Removing Barriers, Building Savings: Changing Federal Policy to Help Families Save" to the Inter-religious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs.

You can find a copy of the presentation here.

Removing Barriers, Building Savings

September 24, 2013

On September 19th, Rachel Black presented "Removing Barriers, Building Savings" to 2013 OFA Regions I, II, and III TANF Technical Assistance Meeting: Developing an Exit Strategy for Leaving TANF on the Pathway to Family Stability.

You can find a copy of the presentaiton here.

Guest Post: TrustEgg: Simple Saving for a Brighter Future

September 24, 2013
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Editor’s note: This post was authored by Jeffrey Brice and Eric Genrich of TrustEgg.  Jeff is the Founder/CEO of TrustEgg and a former accountant working in Banking and Trust. He is an expert in children’s savings plans, and created TrustEgg to help save for his nieces’ futures. Eric is TrustEgg's Policy Advisor, a husband, father, and Wisconsin state legislator.

Looking to Australia for Innovations in Retirement Security

September 23, 2013
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Last week, the Brookings Institution’s Retirement Security Project and AARP Public Policy Institute co-hosted an event exploring the retirement savings systems of Australia and a range of other countries in Asia and Europe, with the goal of identifying lessons for the ailing American system. Gary Koenig, Director of the Economics Team at AARP PPI, framed the event by noting that the U.S. retirement system is “not working well enough for enough workers.” Further, although inadequate retirement savings is an “international problem,” other nations’ success with features like automatic enrollment and even mandatory savings may offer some useful models as the U.S. strategizes about how to address its own system’s shortcomings.

Asset Building News Week, September 16-20

September 20, 2013
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include inequality, poverty, public assistance, savings, and financial products.

America’s Hidden Poverty Problem

September 19, 2013

Editor's note: This post originally appeared in the third edition of New America's new digital magazine, the Weekly Wonk.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that 46.5 million people, more than half of whom were children, lived in poverty in 2012. Those numbers are staggering, and virtually unchanged from the 2012 stats. But here’s the kicker: They’re also masking the scale of the problem.

Here’s why: The way poverty is measured is outdated and based on faulty assumptions. It’s meant to tell us how many people have incomes below a federally defined threshold. In 2012, that threshold was around $23,000 for a family of four. To put this into perspective, if both parents were working full time at the minimum wage their yearly income would be just under $30,000. A poverty threshold that makes minimum wage earnings look cushy should certainly raise an eyebrow.

Since the formula was initially calculated by tripling the cost of a basic food basket in the 1960s (and adjusted from that point to inflation since), it fails to reflect a modern family budget, which allocates much more to housing, transportation, medical expenses, and child care than the Cleavers ever did. It also doesn’t account for geographical variation. The purchasing power of a family earning $23,000 in Manhattan, New York, is, unsurprisingly, different than the same family living in Manhattan, Kansas.

Broadband Access as an Asset Building Tool

September 19, 2013

In a newly released video co-produced by New America’s Education Policy Program, Open Technology Institute, and Asset Building Program, my colleagues and I argue that affordable and universal broadband access is an important tool for promoting equal access to economic, educational and occupational opportunities for all. Learn more about this body of work here.

When accompanied by appropriate digital inclusion policies and adequate consumer protections, broadband access can serve as a tool to help families and individuals build their wealth, access savings opportunities, and improve their economic prospects.

Access to the internet gives individuals, families, and communities a vehicle with which to engage an array of resources and services: the full spectrum of the education system, the job market and a wide variety of workplaces, financial service providers, and a range of other governmental and non-governmental services and structures that improve daily life. In this way, the internet can function as a tool to promote upward social and economic mobility. In the asset building context, an affordable high-speed home broadband connection can lay the foundation for successful engagement with safe and affordable financial products outside of a bank. Internet access (and competency with internet-based tools) is a de facto prerequisite for un- or underemployed adults to seek out and apply for living wage job opportunities. Children and youth can use the internet to build foundational skills that lead to better educational outcomes in the short and long-term.  

However, we have a long way to go to reach this vision for universal connectivity – and a number of caveats to address along the way.

Just Who is Middle Class?

September 17, 2013

Dylan Matthews at Wonkblog does us all a service today by passing around this chart from today's Census Bureau release on Income, Poverty and Insurance:

As he notes in his post, "If you're in a family of four, and your family's income surpasses $66,000 a year, you're doing better than the typical American family. If you're making six figures, then you're doing much better than the typical American family. If you're making $200,000 or more, you're in truly rarified territory."

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