Institute on Assets and Social Policy

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Assets and Mobility

Financial assets, unevenly distributed across the population, play a fluid role in the dynamics of social mobility and opportunity. Through its research and policy analysis, the Institute seeks a broader understanding of the way families, over time, do or do not acquire and utilize assets and how they manage financial uncertainty and opportunity, leverage social mobility, and secure prospects for themselves and their children.

IASP, in partnership with Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA), National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA),  is proud to announce our report, Foundations For the Future: Empowerment Economics in the Native Hawaiian Context.  This study demonstrates the importance of community-driven, culturally rooted approaches to financial capability in building assets in communities of color and reducing the racial wealth gap. In this report, IASP researchers introduce the concept of "empowerment economics," an approach to collective wealth and wellbeing, which challenges the notion that the individual accumulation of wealth is the end goal for the assets field.  The report profiles an innovative multigenerational financial capability program created and led by Native Hawaiians and highlights best practices for organizations seeking to improve asset building practice and policy for communities of color. Read more about the research.

IASP's “Leveraging Mobility" project, funded by the Ford Foundation, aims to improve understanding of the pathways and barriers families face in moving to economic security by empirically answering the question: What is the role of financial assets and aspirations in the mobility pathways of low, moderate, and middle-income families over time?  This research will include an examination of the racial wealth gap, looking to understand the main drivers behind its continued expansion. The project explores these issues by re-interviewing 140 families originally interviewed in 1998-1999 to understand the role of financial assets in their lives and the basis and implications of their decisions about asset use for their mobility over a decade. Alongside these interviews—conducted in Boston, Los Angeles and St. Louis—an analysis of longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) will test these qualitative findings against a nationally representative sample, exploring the impact of race, class and other factors on how families build and leverage assets over the life course.

Utilizing Research from IASP, PEW Explores Damaging Effects of Unemployment & Unexpected Wealth Losses on Mobility and Economic Security

Hard Choices BriefIASP produced a new study published by The Pew Charitable TrustsMaking Hard Choices: Navigating the Economic Shock of Unemployment, examines how American families manage unexpected financial setbacks and how those periods of economic uncertainty draw down financial resources, leaving them more insecure in the future. The report studies families across race and income levels, revealing different experiences resulting from unemployment and the difficult choices many of them face. 

Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis, the study takes a close look at varying experiences of unemployment across race and family income from 1999 to 2009.  The research shows that families at every rung of the economic ladder experienced unemployment and other financial setbacks, but families at the bottom of the income ladder, Latinos, and blacks had the greatest risk of job loss and the least access to resources to buffer negative impacts.

Krissy Clark of NPR's Marketplace reported on the study in "Recovery from Job Loss: Easier for Whites than Blacks."

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