Individual Wealth Building

Center for Social Development (Washington University in St. Louis)

Founded by Michael Sherraden in 1994, the Center for Social Development is widely credited with developing and popularizing the idea of Individual Development Accounts as a method for promoting greater asset accumulation by low-income individuals. The Center regularly provides a directory of state-level IDA programs and publishes research papers.

Assets and Opportunity Initiative

The national Assets & Opportunity Network works to promote the scope and influence of asset-based strategies.  Through the dissemination of information, resources, and connections, the Network serves both academics and advocates to advance asset movements and deliver asset services.  The Network focuses on local, state, and federal asset-related policy, as well as program implementation.

Asset Building Program (New America Foundation)

This website serves as a clearinghouse for news and research about Individual Development Accounts and related individual asset-building efforts.

Individual Wealth Building

Individual wealth building programs aim to increase the savings of low and moderate-income individuals. One of the pioneering efforts in this area is the Individual Development Account (IDA). Individual Development Accounts illustrate a central feature of the community wealth-building approach: namely, that to end poverty, communities—and the people in those communities—must be given the tools they need to develop their own, long-term income-generating capacity. Read more about Individual Wealth Building...

Individual Wealth Building

Miss. project builds on cultural strengths to develop economy

Gabe Schwartzman
The Daily Yonder

The Delta Creative Business Challenge granted a local business owner/artist a cash prize with which he can further his business. The contest aimed to begin building community wealth, which builds ownership at the local level to allow individuals to control their own future. 

A House Divided: How Race Colors the Path to Homeownership

Skylar Olsen et al.

More than 50 years after Dr. King fought for equality, “it is apparent that the American dream of homeownership is not equally shared,” notes real estate firm Zillow’s chief economist Stan Humphries in a study coauthored by Zillow and the National Urban League. To build wealth in communities of color and reduce wealth inequality, the authors call for the removal of institutional barriers toward homeownership, such as policies that advocate arbitrarily high down-payment requirements, as well as an expansion of predatory lending protections.

Building resilience in nonprofit food hubs

Jacqueline R. LeBlanc, et al.
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

Making Markets an Asset for the Poor

Matt Fellowes
Harvard Law & Policy Review, volume 1, pages 433-456

Creating an Opportunity Society

Melvin l. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro
American Prospect, pages 27-28

Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century

Carl Van Horn, Tammy Edwards and Todd Greene

More comprehensive restructuring and truly innovative approaches are needed to meet the human capital demands of employers. More and better information is also needed to inform job seekers about an increasing range of private and public options from which they can obtain the skills and credentials to be successful. It is in response to these and other trends that Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century was developed. The book provides thoughtful perspectives on how workforce development efforts, often based on approaches from decades ago, might be rethought to better respond to these trends. 

Strengthening VITA to Boost Financial Security at Tax Time & Beyond

Shervan Sebastian, Ezra Levin and David Newville

In 2015, Congress increased funding for VITAfor the first time in six yearsby $3 million. However, in order for the program to meet the growing demand for its services, VITA must be authorized, expanded and modernized. This paper explores how the VITA program has developed over time and how local VITA programs serve their communities. It then highlights the VITA program’s present challenges and opportunities for valuable reforms that would enable VITA sites to serve more people. 

Poverty Interrupted: Applying Behavioral Science to the Context of Chronic Scarcity

Allison Daminger, Jonathan Hayes, Anthony Barrows and Josh Wright

Ideas42 has engaged with more than 70 domestic poverty experts over the past year, including academics, practitioners, and parents raising young children. We have studied academic liter- ature from multiple disciplines and directly observed 15 programs serving families with low incomes. This paper distills the lessons we’ve learned and the best practices we've observed in this process. We do not claim exhaustive knowledge of poverty; instead, we intend this document to serve as a well-researched conversation starter that will help catalyze the behav- ioral innovations our society desperately needs. In the pages that follow, we share behavioral insights that shed new light on the many challenges facing families with low incomes and those who seek to support them. We also put forward three design principles that follow from these insights and can be tailored to t the needs of a wide range of communities, organizations, policies and programs. 

Building Millenials' Financial Health Via Financial Capability

Terri Friedline and Stacia West

This study, generously funded by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, leveraged the 2012 National Financial Capability Study (NFCS) to investigate the state of Millennials' financial health and to provide a preliminary test of the effectiveness of financial capability—an intervention that has the potential to improve financial health by combining financial education and financial inclusion. In particular, this study asked whether being financially capable was associated with metrics of Millennials' financial health such as locating $2,000 for an unexpected expense, saving for emergencies, using alternative financial services, carrying too much debt, and being satisfied with their financial condition. In addition to joining the national dialogue regarding the state of Millennials’ financial health within the current macroeconomic context, this study offers financial capability as a potential solution. 

Family Financial Resources among Boston Residents: Flow by Race and Ethnicity

Tatjana Meschede, William Darity Jr. and Darrick Hamilton

This issue brief examines the extent to which family financial transfers occur among Boston residents of color. New data collected for the Boston metro area, as part of the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color (NASCC) survey, for the first time provide detailed information on financial assets that allow analysis to be broken down beyond the traditional black-and-white divide at the metropolitan-area level. Targeting U.S.-born blacks, Caribbean blacks, Cape Verdeans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans, findings show that households of color consistently receive fewer financial transfers than whites, while at the same time providing more financial assistance to their families and relatives. Particularly striking are differences in parental payments toward higher education expenses and financial support for the down payment of a home. Immigrant status further explains differences between white and nonwhite households as well as between households of color. 

Federal EITC Kept 2 Percent of the Population Out of Poverty: Greatest Poverty Reductions in Texas, North Carolina, and Arizona

Douglas J. Gagnon, Marybeth J. Mattingly and Andrew Schaefer
University of New Hampshire

This brief documents the proportion of Americans who would have been poor absent the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), all else being equal, across 2010–2014. We examine Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) rates as well as hypothetical increases in the rates of SPM poverty in the absence of federal EITC benefits. It is important to note that we do not model behavioral changes that might result from the removal of EITC benefits, so the analyses presented here are a simplified representation of such a hypothetical scenario. The SPM is an obvious choice for this analysis because unlike the Official Poverty Measure (OPM), which only accounts for before-tax cash income, the SPM also considers in-kind benefits, tax credits, and out-of-pocket work and medical expenses when estimating resources. We present SPM rates for all individuals as well as for children only, analyzing trends across regions, metropolitan status, and by state. Importantly, geographic differences in the cost of housing are accounted for in the SPM rates, and consequently the analyses presented here give a more accurate sense of the poverty reducing impact of EITC benefits. 

Saving 10x for Education: The Impact of EARN’s Triple Boost Microsavings Program on Families’ Education Savings

Jade Shipman

EARN is a leading nonprofit provider of microsavings programs in the US. EARN commissioned a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) to measure the impacts of TripleBoost, a program designed to help working families save for their children’s education. The primary goal of the RCT was to understand how the first 6 months of TripleBoost participation influences the amount of money that families save for their children’s education.

To answer this question, the study randomly placed qualified TripleBoost applicants into Treatment and Control groups, where the Treatment group immediately began participation in TripleBoost, and the Control group was placed on a 6month waiting list. Families were asked a series of questions at the time of application and on a 6month followup survey. Actual deposit data from families in the Treatment group also was analyzed.

RCT findings reveal that during the 6month study period, TripleBoost families saved an average of $681 for their children’s education, more than 10 times the average amount saved by families in the Control group. A majority of families in the Control group saved $0 during the study period, while 90% of TripleBoost families saved $500 or more. The results are statistically significant. Thus, EARN’s TripleBoost program effectively drives families to set aside 10x more in savings for their children’s education than they would save without the program. 

Tipping the Scale: How Assets Shape Economic Wellbeing for Women and Families

Rebecca Loya, Alexis Mann, Janet Boguslaw and Thomas Shapiro

The present analysis draws on interviews with black and white families of diverse means to illustrate how resource differences play out in the lives of American families. We contrast the options and experiences of higher-resource families like the Barrys, who have access to two or more resources at the personal, institutional, or neighborhood levels, with those who have fewer resources, like the Meehans. This brief focuses on women’s experiences speci cally and considers how women of different racial backgrounds with various income and asset pro les manage these economic challenges. 

Moving Toward a Policy Agenda for Improving Children’s Savings Account Delivery Systems

William Elliott III, Melinda K. Lewis, Anthony Poore and Brian Clarke

This paper, jointly produced by the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion (AEDI) at the University of Kansas and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, was informed by a roundtable on CSA delivery systems, held at the Boston Fed in December 2014. It describes the design, key features, and respective challenges of each principal delivery system. Assessed in light of the CSA field’s guiding principles for delivery system design (universal and automatic enrollment, national footprint, cultivation of a saver identity, asset-building, administrative efficiency, and adequate consumer protection), these models have distinct advantages and limitations. This paper attempts to contribute to the critical task of building the knowledge base needed to help children’s savings programs begin to weigh the pros and cons of each of these existing delivery systems. 

Sector Workforce Intermediaries: Next Generation Employer-Engagement Strategies

Fred O'Regan

The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Aspen Institute invited a number of leading practitioners to a one-day meeting centered on the question: “How can we expand the definition of employer engagement to include influencing businesses’ human resource and training practices in addition to responding to pipeline needs?” The question was meant to be provocative and to elicit lively discussion, not necessarily neat conclusions. 

The Racial Wealth Gap: Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap through Business Ownership

Joyce Klein and Jenna Liang

While business ownership is seen as a vehicle for wealth building, research from the Asset Funders Network finds that Latino and African American business owners are frequently excluded from this opportunity. With lower levels of family wealth to invest, lower levels of experience in family-owned businesses, and limited access to markets, the wealth gap continues. To reduce disparities, the Asset Funders Network calls on philanthropic funders to direct investment toward cooperatively owned businesses and CDFIs and to support policy efforts that direct public resources and contracting opportunities to CDFIs and business owned by people of color.

Rebuilding American Success: Savings and Opportunity for All


In the face of economic insecurity, this policy memo from CFED argues that an asset building approach can help families build their financial assets as students, homeowners, or entrepreneurs, thereby empowering individuals to steward their own resources more effectively and contribute to their own economic success. Highlighting how many Americans lack basic financial security, the memo calls for federal policy reforms that give low-income households better access to the financial tools and knowledge they need to build a secure future. Recommendations include improving tax incentives for low- and middle-income savers, reauthorizing the Assets for Independence Program and reviving US savings bonds. 

Children's Savings Accounts: Why Design Matters

Barbara A. Butrica, Adam Carasso, C. Eugene Steuerle and Desmond J. Toohey
The Urban Institute, report 4

Inclusive Recovery in US Cities

Erika Poethig, Solomon Greene, Christina Stacy, Tanaya Srini and Brady Meixell

Homeownership and the Racial Wealth Divide

Bill Emmons
Housing Market Perspectives

Written by Bill Emmons for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Housing Market Perspectives explores how HOE accounted for almost half of Black and Latino's families wealth: 

Homeowners‘ equity (HOE)—the market value of residential real estate minus the value of homesecured debt—has long been the single largest component of wealth for black and Latino families.2 On average during the past quartercentury, HOE accounted for nearly half of black and Latino families‘ wealth, compared with roughly a third for Asian or other families and about a quarter for white families (Figure 1).3 During peaks in 1989 and around the financial crisis starting in 2007, HOE accounted for more than half of the wealth of the average black and Latino family

Finances and Health: Clarifi Survey Data

J. Michael Collins and Mia Nafziger
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Closing the Women's Wealth Gap: What It Is, Why It Matters, and What Can Be Done About It

Heather McCulloch

While the pay gap between men and women is widely discussed, the wealth gap is even more pronounced: single women own 32 cents for every dollar owned by men, with women of color owning pennies to the dollar. This new report from the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap Initiative discusses the systems and dynamics that generate this gap, including disparate access to business equity and home ownership opportunities. The author recommends tax reforms that make wealth building subsidies more accessible to women of color in particular, as well as strategies like cooperative ownership and more flexible savings account options.

Raising Wages and Rebuilding Wealth

Carmel Martin, Andy Green and Brendan Duke
Center for American Progress

Protecting Communities on the Road to Recovery

Sarah Edelman, Michela Zonta and Shiv Rawal
Center for American Progress

The Ever-Growing Gap: Without change, African-American and Latino families won't match White wealth for centuries

Dedrick Asante-Muhammed, Chuck Collins, Josh Hoxie and Emanuel Nieves

Between 1983 and 2013, the average wealth of white American families grew by 84 percent—three times and 1.2 times the growth experienced by African American and Hispanic American families respectively. The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and CFED examine this and other racial wealth gap trends in their new report, and offer policy solutions to reduce wealth inequalities which include: conducting a government-wide audit to examine the ways in which current federal policies perpetuate racial wealth inequality, creating universal children’s savings accounts, and exploring progressive taxes such as a wealth tax.

The Color of Entrepreneurship: Why the Racial Gap Among Firms Costs the U.S. Billions

Algernon Austin

“America is currently forgoing an estimated 1.1 million businesses owned by people of color because of past and present discrimination,” writes Algernon Austin, author of this new report from the Center for Global Policy Solutions. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, Austin finds that the country would produce an estimated 9 million more jobs and have $300 billion more in national income if entrepreneurship amongst people of color were proportional to their distribution in the labor force. To address this, Austin recommends creating tax credits to incentivize investments in minority-owned businesses, expanding the number of Minority Business Development Agencies, and utilizing alternative credit data for those with limited credit histories. 

The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles

Melany De La Cruz-Viesca et al.

This new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco seeks to better understand the factors that influence and create disparities in wealth accumulation, particularly intergenerational resource transfers, historical context, and local asset markets. Researchers draw on data from the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color (NASCC) survey, the first of its kind, to assess wealth disparities among different racial and ethnic groups in Los Angeles and inform multifaceted policy solutions tailored to distinct community needs.

The Professionalizing Field of Financial Counseling and Coaching

Jonathan Mintz
The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund

With nearly ten million households in the U.S. lacking a bank account, many families face challenges building wealth. However, with financial counseling and coaching, families can work towards financial security. This new collection of essays from Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE Fund) and Citi Community Development highlights this potential and brings together the perspectives of leading experts in the field. The essays share strategies for building cultural competency, accessing public funding opportunities, and scaling and professionalizing efforts:

Equitable Investments in the Next Generation: Designing Policies to Close the Racial Wealth Gap

Laura Sullivan, Tatjana Meschede, Thomas Shapiro, Dedrick Asante-Muhammed and Emanuel Nieves

Median Latino and Black households have over $100,000 less in wealth than median White households, a disparity that persists despite reductions in income inequality. This new report from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and CFED puts forward a “racial wealth audit” framework, assessing how specific policies either lessen or inadvertently perpetuate the racial wealth gap. The authors call for “targeted universalism” noting that policies such as Children’s Savings Account and eliminating student debt will only successfully address the racial wealth gap if they focus in particular on low income households.

The Color of Wealth in Boston

Ana Patricia Muñoz, Marlene Kim, Mariko Chang, Regine O. Jackson, Darrick Hamilton and William A. Darity Jr.
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Lending for Success

Joe Valenti, Sarah Edelman and Julia Gordon
Center for American Progress

Assets & Opportunity Scorecard: Living on the Edge: Financial Insecurity and Policies to Rebuild Prosperity in America

Jennifer Brooks and Kasey Wiedrich

Despite signs of a U.S. economic recovery, CFED’s 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard shows that many Americans are still struggling just to get by. This year’s result finds that nearly half (43.9 percent) of households—or more than 132 million people—are “liquid asset poor.” As a result, they do not have enough assets to provide themselves with a basic personal safety net to protect against an unforeseen crisis, such as unemployment or a medical emergency, or plan for future needs, such as a child’s college education or homeownership. To address this problem, this report highlights measures states have taken to build financial security and increase opportunities in the areas of financial assets and income, businesses and jobs, housing and homeownership, health care, and education.

Learning to Save, Saving to Learn

Norm Leckie, Taylor Shek-Wai HUi, Jennifer Robson, Doug Tattrie and Jean-Pierre Voyer

How Solidarity Economy Movement is Emerging in Lower-Income Communities of Color

Solidarity Economy Initiative

This report was commissioned by the Massachusetts-based Solidarity Economy Initiative (SEI), which was convened in 2015 to support grassroots organizations to lead a movement for a solidarity economy. SEI was developed by Access Strategies Fund, Boston Impact Initiative, Center for Economic Democracy, and Solidago Foundation. It organizes resources, technical assistance, and infrastructure for frontline organizations to develop movement-building strategies to transform American capitalism as a root cause of social and ecological more 

Learning to Save, Saving to Learn

Norm Leckie, Taylor Shek-Wai HUi, Jennifer Robson, Doug Tattrie and Jean-Pierre Voyer