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The Case for Asset-Based Social Policy in the Wake of the Great Recession

The Great Recession continues to spread hardship far and wide. Poverty rates are increasing, and once stable households are falling behind and increasingly vulnerable to economic uncertainty. The longer economic insecurity persists, the harder it will be for families to move forward in their lives. The breadth of households turning to existing safety net programs for assistance is exposing the limits of the prevailing policy framework designed to prevent families from falling deep into poverty, mitigating hardship, and providing a pathway toward financial stability. This experience should serve as a catalyst to audit our safety net, identify gaps in effectiveness, and craft polices to bridge those gaps and enhance the performance of current interventions. A reformed policy framework should consider how to connect social insurance programs with ones that promote savings and asset building. This paper examines the limitations of current safety net policies, offers a rationale for elevating an asset-based social policy framework, and identifies a set of features to define this framework.

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