Ownership & Assets

Inequality for All: Film Screening

September 16, 2013
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Last Wednesday, the Asset Building Program co-hosted (with Demos) a screening of a forthcoming film, Inequality for All, at our New America NYC space. The film stars former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and explores the growth of extreme inequality in America over the past several decades. Our Madeline McSherry summed up the event as follows:


New California Retirement Program Puts Out Request for Information

September 16, 2013
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Earlier this year, we published an issue brief about the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program (“CSC”) – a new law championed by state Sen. Kevin de León that aims to connect California’s private sector workers with retirement accounts and curb escalating rates of senior poverty. In California, over six million private sector workers—disproportionately women, people of color and lower-income workers— currently lack access to retirement accounts through their employers, which mirrors national statistics. CSC would automatically enroll these workers in portable accounts with a modest guaranteed rate of return.

Asset Building News Week, September 9-13

September 13, 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 housing, jobs, inequality, savings, financial products and poverty.

Hey Utah: Policymaking via Stereotype Benefits No One

September 12, 2013
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Utah’s recent plan to drug test its TANF applicants, like similar proposals from a range of other states, came under scrutiny earlier this summer after it was revealed that a mere 12 applicants failed the test – which cost taxpayers over $30,000 to administer.

So why is the state now claiming that the policy resulted in savings of over $350,000?

I’m glad you asked.

A Conversation on the Weekly Wonk: Should We Bank On It?

September 12, 2013

If you haven't had a chance yet to check out New America's new digital magazine, the Weekly Wonk, have a look. This is an institution-wide effort so the content you'll find there comes from all of our varying policy programs. The magazine will be published every Thursday, and you can sign up to receive it via email on our homepage.

This week's edition featured a conversation among Jamie Zimmerman, director of New America’s Global Assets Project (GAP) and co-author of the just-released “Beyond the Buzz: The Allure and Challenge of using Mobile Phones to Increase Youth Financial Inclusion,” Hibah Hussain, policy program associate at New America’s Open Technology Institute and author of the policy paper “Dialing Down Risks: Mobile Privacy and Information Security in Global Development Projects,” and Eric Tyler, a GAP research fellow.

On the Weekly Wonk:

Imagine a 10-year-old girl in Nepal stashing her weekly allowance not under a floorboard in her room, but in a banking app on her mobile phone. It’s a win-win-win: She’s building assets, averting notorious local banking corruption, and learning tech skills. It’s easy to see why the potential for mobile finance has development experts all over the world drooling. But is that utopian narrative more hype than help? To find out, we convened three analysts for a discussion on whether we should bank on mobile finance to lift youth in the developing world out of poverty.

Jamie, let’s start with you. Your new paper is on the allure and challenge of mobile finance as a way to make banking more accessible to young people in the developing world . Why is mobile such an attractive solution to combat poverty?

Click here to read the rest of the conversation.

Beyond the Buzz

  • By
  • Jamie M. Zimmerman,
  • Julia Arnold,
  • Elizabeth Carls,
  • New America Foundation
  • and Lex Nowak and Vinay Rao (Global Assets Project)
September 12, 2013

Although low-income youth in the developing world tend to lead relatively complex financial lives, many do so without access to the financial tools and knowledge that might benefit them. Increasing their financial inclusion—or the access and capabilities necessary to use appropriate, typically formal, financial products and services—could help low-income youth better navigate the financial landscape and ultimately contribute to their economic empowerment.

Event Series at the University of Kansas on Poverty, Assets, and the American Dream

September 6, 2013

The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, the Assets and Education Initiative (AEDI), and the KU Social Work Administration and Advocacy Practice are convening a series of events over the next few months about the interplay of assets with upward economic and social mobility. Learn more about the series and RSVP for the first event here.

The first event kicks off next week on September 11 at the University of Kansas. Keynote speaker Dr. Mark Rank, a widely-recognized expert on poverty and inequality, will be discussing his research, including a finding that nearly 60 percent of Americans experience poverty at some point between the ages of 20 and 75. His talk, and the panel discussion to follow, will examine why poverty is portrayed as an individual failing despite its prevalence and structural origins, and how institutions can support (or stop hindering) upward economic mobility. 

Check out the details for Wednesday's event below and make a note of the dates of forthcoming events. In particular, note that our Senior Research Fellow, William Elliott, will be speaking at the November event about his work on improving children's educational outcomes through access to savings. The early 2014 events will feature Tom Shapiro, whose work with the Institute on Assets and Social Policy has greatly informed the national conversation on the causes of racial wealth disparities, and Michael Sherraden, whose work laid the earliest foundations of the asset building field.

The series will be available on livestream for those not able to travel to the Lawrence, Kansas area.

More Than One in Seven U.S. Households Experienced Food Insecurity Last Year

September 5, 2013
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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service released its latest annual report on the state of household food security in the U.S. The report documents the prevalence and severity of food insecurity throughout 2012 and contains data on household spending on food, participation in nutrition assistance programs, and strategies families used to cope with food insecurity.

Prevalence of Food Insecurity 

Approximately 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children lived in food insecure households in 2012. According to the USDA definition of food insecurity, this means a full 49 million Americans lived in households that struggled to access enough food due to a lack of resources last year. Forty-nine million. 49,000,000 people lived in food insecure households in 2012. I'm repeating these numbers to ensure the magnitude of this crisis is made plain. (And as Stacy Dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out, "the data likely understate food insecurity because they don’t include homeless individuals or families.")

Disappointingly, but sadly not surprisingly given the ongoing high rates of poverty and un- and underemployment, "the prevalence of food insecurity has been essentially unchanged since 2008," the report explains. While the food security rate is unacceptably high, it’s important to note that the depth of hardship stemming from a prolonged recession and sluggish recovery was actually mitigated by the responsiveness of our social safety net – most notably the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps). As CBPP has documented in detail, SNAP closely follows the poverty rate, which means the program saw appropriate and needed growth over the past few years as the poverty rate grew.

While Americans of all ages, races, and family structures may face food insecurity, there are persistent gaps in the prevalence of food insecurity among certain demographic groups that have remained relatively consistent over time. Check out the chart below which shows the rate of food insecurity among white non-Hispanic, black non-Hispanic, and Hispanic households (who may be of any race) over the past three years.

Households of color in the U.S. consistently experience rates of food insecurity more than twice that of white households, a phenomenon that points to broader forms of racial inequality, including (but by no means limited to) ongoing disparities in unemployment and access to living wage job opportunities.

Economic Mobility from the State Perspective: Indiana

September 5, 2013
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A recent study by economists from Harvard University and University of California at Berkeley caught the eye of many for its first-of-a-kind examination of factors relating to upward economic mobility. Armed with a massive database consisting of 6.3 million children born in 1980 or 1981 - spanning across more than 700 regions, or "commuting zones" in the U.S.  - the authors examined the extent to which these children's parents income determined their own income at the age of 30. With this study in hand, states and regions can now evaluate their policies against hard evidence of what works, and what doesn't, to restore the American Dream.
Speaking of what doesn't work; that shows up clearly in the color-coded map above (an interactive version can be found here). Six southern states make up the largest concentration of low mobility regions in the United States but significant concentrations of low mobility also extends into portions of the Midwest - and right into the heart of Indiana. Of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., Indianapolis ranks 48th - meaning that only in Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA do children from low-income families have less of a chance at escaping poverty. 
The authors of The Equality of Opportunity Project found four common sense factors associated with greater upward mobility: quality K-12 education; a large middle class and a lack of economic segregation by income; the number of two-parent families; and citizen engagement. The mobility barriers common to the southern region include a failure to invest in quality K-12 education especially for low-income families, a struggling middle class (all six of the southern states have right-to-work laws and low union density), high economic segregation, and a history of voter suppression.
To read more and view statistics about how Indiana compares to the rest of the country, check out the full post on the Indiana Institute for Working Families blog.

Asset Building News Week, August 26-30

August 30, 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 debt, savings, poverty, the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and racial wealth disparities.

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