Financing Strategies for Learning and Asset Development

Based on the assumption that lifelong learning is a form of asset accumulation, this paper discusses a range of financing strategies. The paper includes a summary of what has been learned about assets, both from research and demonstrations largely centered in the U.S. While the evidence strongly suggests that assets are worth accumulating for both economic and social reasons, this begs the question, how can the poor possibly accumulate assets? To answer this question, we closely examine the U.S. experience with Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), which has demonstrated the potential of the poor to save and build assets. One of the key insights arising from IDA demonstration projects is that “savings is a structure, not a habit,” which has many profound implications for financing lifelong learning—namely, that, absent new, targeted institutional arrangements provided by the public and private sectors, asset and lifelong learning strategies directed at disadvantaged persons are not likely to succeed. The experience of Individual Learning Accounts and other asset building efforts also provide a foundation for a set of broad public policy recommendations.

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Ray Boshara

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.