The 'Assets Paradigm'

Asset Building: Combating Poverty, Creating a Nation of Stakeholders

Please join us as Ray Boshara discusses the promise, prospects, and limits of the "assets paradigm" to combat poverty and inequality in the U.S. and abroad. Reflecting on 12 years of experience, Boshara will make the case for asset-based policies, summarize existing research, and discuss current legislative initiatives. He will also describe proposals in the U.K. and other countries to build assets.

Of course, the stock market's lost capitalization of about $4 trillion has diminished the assets and devastated the dreams of millions of Americans, giving Congress and the rest of America pause about the wisdom of using market mechanisms to create wealth. However, Boshara believes it's important that we not let the equity markets' demise detract from our progress on a valid, historically-proven national goal: expanding asset ownership to the half of all Americans who have no or few assets.

Two revolutions -- one in thought, the other on the ground -- have made this assets view of the world possible. In 1990, Michael Sherraden, author of the seminal Assets and the Poor, challenged the dominant "income paradigm" of the 20th century by proposing that when we think about poverty, we should also think about assets. And Selina Darden, a beautician in Washington, D.C., and a few thousand low-income people like her in pioneering "IDA" programs around the country, defied the expectations of economists, advocates, and policymakers by saving money.

A new policy framework -- centered on assets -- and a new policy fact -- that the poor can save -- have, together, sparked an optimistic movement in the U.S. (and, more recently, abroad) that believes that, finally, we may have the ingredients to overcome poverty and offer genuine opportunity for all.

Of course, time will tell if this promise of assets can be fulfilled. Boshara offers an honest assessment of IDAs, as well as the potential of assets to reshape social policy in the U.S. and elsewhere.


The New America Foundation
1630 Connecticut Ave., NW 7th Floor
Washington, DC, 20009
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  • Ray Boshara
    Director, Asset Building Program, New America Foundation