Welfare

Asset Building News Week, July 14-18

July 18, 2014
Publication Image The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include postal banking, the safety net, inequality, and education.
 

Poverty is Structural – So are Solutions

June 25, 2014
Publication Image Researchers spend a lot of time trying to identify the root causes of poverty. But the perception of the public matters too—particularly due to the impact of these perceptions on political discourse (and vice versa). A new poll released this week revealed that “fewer Americans blame poverty on the poor” in the wake of the widespread unemployment caused by the recession. Specifically, in response to the question, “What Causes Poverty?” only 44% responded “people not doing enough,” compared to 60% in 1995. By contrast, 46% of respondents identified “circumstances beyond people’s control” as the primary cause, compared to 30% two decades ago. It’s encouraging that more Americans perceive poverty as a structural problem rather than the product of individual choices. Yet preventing a retrenchment of this perspective as conditions improve will require a concerted effort—and a deliberate departure from the past.

Using Concepts from the Field of Cognitive Science to Improve Self-Sufficiency Programs

June 4, 2014
Publication Image Maya Brennan with the Center for Housing Policy has published a fascinating new report entitled “Strengthening Economic Self-Sufficiency Programs: How Housing Authorities Can Use Behavioral and Cognitive Science to Improve Programs.” Brennan uses concepts from the fields of behavioral and cognitive science to evaluate strategies public housing authorities (PHAs) and other providers of housing assistance can utilize to better support their low-income participants. This work has the potential to improve the efficacy of programs designed to support increased earnings and broader upward mobility for recipients of housing assistance.
 
Research from the field of cognitive science helps explain the ways that experiences with “frequent or extended episodes of poverty, trauma, and social bias” affect the decision-making, long-term planning, and other abilities of families receiving rental assistance. Incorporating an awareness of this dynamic into program design at the PHA level therefore can help families participating in programs accomplish their goals and achieve self-sufficiency.
 
Specifically, the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program is well-situated to tackle these issues because it has design elements that already reflect an understanding of what kind of support is needed to help families get on track.

Should We Save Like the Singaporeans Do?

May 29, 2014
Editor's note: This piece originally appeared on New America's Weekly Wonk as part of the series, Globalization’s Canary: Singapore at 50.  In the half-century since its independence, the strategically located city-state has leveraged its access to the global economy, and a number of innovative policies on issues ranging from housing to savings and social cohesion, to become one of the world’s most affluent societies.  As they prepare to celebrate their milestone, Singaporeans are in a reflective mood, taking stock of what’s been accomplished, while also expressing some unease about the sustainability of their current model going forward.  In that same spirit, New America Asset Building Program Director Reid Cramer explores whether Singapore’s innovative savings system could work in the United States.
 
In recent years, policymakers around the world have begun exploring the potential of asset-based welfare policy. There is a growing recognition that while income facilitates immediate consumption, people move up the economic ladder and become economically secure when they are able to build up a pool of assets that they can deploy productively. The experience of Singapore and their Central Provident Fund (CPF) provides an instructive case study for the potential of this approach. Although it was initially designed as a mandatory savings scheme to facilitate retirement security while minimizing welfare payments, it has evolved into a comprehensive social security savings plan with various pre-retirement uses such as financing healthcare, child development, post-secondary education, home ownership, and asset building.

As an account-based social policy system, the CPF offers instructive lessons for any country, particularly when we begin to break down why it has worked so well. One feature that makes it particularly effective is that everybody is automatically enrolled – so taking initiative or having special knowledge of investments and savings isn’t required. Contributions to the fund are not optional, but the resources that accrue can eventually be accessed by the account holder. And there are incentives to increase participation among those with lower incomes, introducing a degree of progressivity to the program.

Vermont Takes on “The Poverty Trap”

May 15, 2014
Publication Image In the past few months, there’s been a lot of talk about “poverty traps” built into the social safety net. The term is most commonly used to refer to the issue of “benefit cliffs” in TANF and other programs – as families’ incomes go up, their benefits decrease, which arguably creates a disincentive to work, depending on how quickly benefits phase out. One approach? Just cut the programs. But a bill that just passed in Vermont shows what a better—and proven—approach looks like.

 

Asset Building News Week, May 5-9

May 9, 2014
Publication Image The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include aging and retirement security, public assistance, and housing.

Asset Building News Week, April 28-May 2

May 2, 2014
Publication Image The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include the racial wealth gap, the American Dream, and public assistance.

Asset Building News Week, April 14-18

April 18, 2014
Publication Image The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include tax day, inequality, and the safety net.

Asset Building News Week, March 31- April 4

April 4, 2014
Publication Image The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include public assistance, financial products, and homeownership.
 

50 Years Since the War on Poverty: Looking Back and Looking Forward

March 18, 2014
Publication Image On March 12th the Asset Building Program hosted the event, “50 Years Since the War On Poverty” and featured diverse perspectives to discuss where we’ve been and where we’re going. The first panel discussion set up a historical framework for understanding the social, economic and political conditions that created the War on Poverty and distilled lessons learned for future policy making. The second panel discussion took stock of where we are now and what a modern anti-poverty policy should include.
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