The Assets Perspective

The Rise of Asset Building and its Impact on Social Policy

I am very pleased to announce the publication of The Assets Perspective: The Rise of Asset Building and it Impact on Social Policy. It’s a 13-chapter edited volume which I worked on with Trina Shanks and a host of excellent contributors.

The book presents a multi-dimensional exploration of how the concept of asset building has taken shape over the last two decades. Many of the chapters were originally presented at a 2012 symposium designed to consider the impact of Michael Sherraden’s seminal book, Assets and the Poor, originally published in 1991. Sherraden’s insights, which focused on the factors that impact long-term socio-economic outcomes rather than short-term income or poverty, inspired a new generation of practitioners to apply the assets perspective to efforts creating new pathways up the economic ladder for families with low incomes and few resources. It was time to examine how the emergent “assets perspective” has impacted the way social policy is now conceived, designed, and delivered.

Topics covered in the book include the evolution of public assistance programs, the racial wealth gap, the impact of the Great Recession on the family balance sheet, the challenge of affordable homeownership, the history of financial services, children’s savings initiatives, and the potential of policy reform. Our goal was to produce a book that could serve as a valuable resource for those looking to learn more about the asset-building field and also how this framework is shaping contemporary policy discussions. It is designed to be relevant for those engaged in social policy and anti-poverty work, including practitioners, researchers, and policymakers alike.

Table of contents:

The Rise of Asset Building and its Impact on Social Policy
Reid Cramer and Trina R. Williams Shanks

Transformation of Anti-Poverty Policies and Programs
Trina R. Williams Shanks

The Finances of Typical Households after the Great Recession
Clinton Key

Financial Fracking in the Land of the Fee, 1980-2008
Devin Fergus

The Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Why Wealth is Not Color Blind
Thomas Shapiro, Tatjana Meschede, and Sam Osoro

The Promises and Pitfalls of Homeownership
Carolina Reid

Setting the Record Straight on Affordable Homeownership
Allison Freeman and Janneke Ratcliffe

A Behavioral Economics Perspective on Innovations in Savings Programs
Piyush Tantia, Shannon White, and Josh Wright

Solving the Paradox of High College Expectations: The Role of Children's Savings Accounts
William Elliott III

Extending Savings Accounts to Young People: Lessons from Two Decades of Asset Building
Terri Friedline

Making Tax Time the Financial Management Moment
David Rothstein and Rachel Black

Foundations of an Asset-Based Social Policy Agenda
Reid Cramer

Asset Building Research and Policy: Pathways, Progress, and Potential of a Social Innovation
Michael Sherraden

And we have been lucky to have an excellent set of blurbers for the back cover (Governor Jack Markell, Urban Institute President Sarah Rosen Wartell, Professor Michael Barr, and President of EARN Ben Mangan).

Oh, what the heck, I’ll just include the blurbs here too:

“This is a must-read for improving long-term social outcomes and reducing poverty in America. Cramer and Shanks make a strong argument, backed by a generation of research, that an asset-based welfare policy—whether human, social or financial assets—creates a space for economic capability and financial security to thrive, especially when it is positioned holistically as an integral part of social and economic policy. The Assets Perspective reframes the cyclical dependency welfare model with a refreshing new point of view.” — Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware.

“Fifty years after the War on Poverty began we have learned that families need more than income to escape poverty and achieve financial security—they need to be able to access a wide array of resources, savings, and assets. The Assets Perspective explores the diverse implications of this simple but profound perspective, offering insights to inform how we regulate financial services, rebuild our housing finance system, and tackle the challenges brought on by demographic changes and increasing economic stratification." — Sarah Rosen Wartell, President, Urban Institute.

"The Assets Perspective brings together leading scholars in the field to explore new strategies to help working families build assets. At a time when so many families are struggling to make ends meet, the volume provides essential guidance on ways to improve financial security and help families to get ahead." — Michael S. Barr, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, author of No Slack: The Financial Lives of Low-Income Americans, and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Institutions.

“Cramer and Shanks have assembled a volume of research and ideas that is hard hitting and invaluable. Whether you are steeped in the field of economic security, or just learning, the articles in this collection define America’s opportunity problem thoughtfully and incisively The Assets Perspective doesn’t just settle for cerebral hand-wringing, but instead moves from illuminating our challenges, to lighting our way forward with articles that propose innovative solutions that will move this country forward.” — Ben Mangan, President and CEO of EARN and Lecturer at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Please enjoy the book and alert your friends and colleagues to the availability of this new resource!

Author:

Reid Cramer is director of the Millennials Initiative at New America. Previously, he served as the Asset Building program's research director and as a co-director of New America's Next Social Contract Initiative.