Institute on Assets and Social Policy

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IASP in the News

"Why Black Families Struggle to Build Wealth" by Gillian B. White in The Atlantic

"Study: Inheritance Is Behind The Racial Wealth Gap" by Haleema Shah in Wisconsin Public Radio

"The Racial Wealth Gap is a Policy Problem, not a Behavior Problem" by Rachel Dovey in NextDoor.com

"The Racial Wealth Gap is not Going to Improve" by Ellen McGirt in Fortune.com

"Attending College Doesn't Close Wage Gap and Other Myths Exposed in New Report" by Kirsten West Savali in The Root

"Opinion: Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap" by Thomas Shapiro and Dedrick Asante-Muhammad in rollcall.com

"The Widening Racial Wealth Divide" by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker

"Public-interest groups are calling on Education Dept. to track racial disparities in student lending" by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel in The Washington Post

"A Rising Force: On the State of Black Philanthropy" by Ade Adeniji in Inside Philanthropy

"As Los Angeles Gets Younger, Skid Row Gets Older" by Stacy Marlena Torres in nextcity.org

"BET's founder on why there aren't more black-owned startups" by Andy Medici in the Washington Business Journal

"Economic inequality is the cause the the consequence of our racial problems" by Michael Hiltzik in LA Times

"Two Stories from the Frontlines of Millennial Caregiving" by Jason Resendez in HuffPost

"Why the Racial Wealth Gap Harms Everyone--Even Whites" by Rebecca Adamson, Rose Brewer, Betsy Leondar-Wright, Meizhu Lui, and Barbara Robles in Slate.com

See previously published news articles

What's New

March 2017

PhD Student, Taylor presents findings on the relationships between education, race, and wealth

Joanna Taylor will present IASP paper: The Great Equalizer? Exploring K-12 Education and Wealth Outcomes, authored by Joanna Taylor, Tatjana Meschede, Alexis Mann, at the upcoming Tenth Biennial Federal Reserve System Community Development Research Conference titled Strong Foundations: The economic futures of kids and communities, March 23-24 in Washington DC. In this work, IASP is exploring the link between school quality and young adult economic outcomes, building on the IASP Leveraging Mobility and Panel Study of Income Dynamics data.

Leading Health Equity Expert, Jessica Santos develops module for Culture of Health Insitute

Jessica Santos presents: Looking Upstream: Systemic Oppression as a Key Determinant of Health Inequities with ARCHE

January 2017

Latest paper using the Racial Wealth Audit published

IASP and Demos publish The Asset Value of Whiteness, which shows that the racial wealth gap is structural and fueled by public policy.

December 2016

IASP and CFED release paper on equitable investments in the next generation

The paper, Equitable Investments in the Next Generation: Designing Policies to Close the Racial Wealth Gap, builds on findings from analyses using the Racial Wealth Audit to focus attention on the ways in which education policy proposals can reduce or exacerbate racial wealth disparities.

November 2016

Boguslaw presents initial results of ESOP research

Associate Director Janet Boguslaw spoke at The ESOP Association's recent conference on a massive research project exploring how ESOPs benefit families and children. Funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, this is the longest, most significant, well-funded study of ESOPs in several years. 

Seventh Secure Jobs Brief issued

This latest report in the Secure Jobs series uses data on Secure Jobs participants who entered skills training to explain how Secure Jobs sites use short-term skills training programs for their participants.  Key findings include: Secure Jobs participants who enroll in skills training programs are comparable to those who do not, and they show moderate employment gains, most notably in job retention.  

Presentation at GSA Annual Scientific Meeting

Research Director Tatjana Meschede presented "Race, Gender, and Senior Economic Well-Being: Financial Vulnerability Among Older Women of Color" at the 2016 Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting. The meeting, New Lens on Aging: Changing Attitudes, Expanding Possibilities, was held in New Orleans.

Sullivan presents at APPAM

Senior Research Associate Laura Sullivan presented "How Measurement of Inequalities in Wealth By Race/Ethnicity Impacts Narrative and Policy" at the 2016 APPAM meeting. Her presentation was part of the panel "The Racial Wealth Gap: Measurement, Trends, and Policy Implications (Social Equity)."

Shapiro speaks in Detroit

IASP Director Shapiro participated on the panel "Bearing Witness to Headwinds: Housing, Wealth, Health and Employment" at the conference "Tomorrow's Detroits and Detroit's Tomorrows: The Economics of Race." The conference was organized by the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

See more What's New

IASP Impact

The new Annie E. Casey Foundation brief, Investing in Tomorrow: Helping Families Build Savings and Assets, draws on IASP's research on the racial wealth gap.

IASP Director Thomas Shapiro spoke to CFED staff on American's growing racial wealth divide in the first of CFED's Race & Wealth podcasts

Sen. Elizabeth Warren used IASP's research in her September 27, 2015 speech at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United State Senate.  

First page of the publication of Levers for Success with a watering can watering a plant

New Findings on Key Features and Outcomes of Children's Savings Account Programs

With support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, IASP studied several aspects of Children's Savings Accounts (CSAs), including:
  • CSA program components that contribute to families' success
  • Program design features that are associated with CSA's political feasibility and long-term success
  • Growth of the CSA field over time

First page of the publication of Family Achievements

College Degrees Pay Off More for Whites than Blacks, New IASP Study Suggests

A college education has been linked to higher life-time earnings and better economic achievements, so the expectation would be that it is also linked to higher net wealth for everybody. However, IASP recent analyses challenge this hypothesis and find that the expectation holds true for White college-educated households but not for Black college-educated households. To examine this finding further and investigate the role of family financial transfers in household net wealth, the authors perform a mixed-method study using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics for a 24-year period, 1989-2013, and qualitative data from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy Levering Mobility study. Their results confirm that White college-educated households amass wealth, whereas the wealth of their Black counterparts declines. The authors, Tatjana Meschede, Joanna Taylor, Alexis Mann, and Thomas Shapiro also estimate the impact of just inheritance or large financial gifts and find that they decrease the existing racial wealth gap by nearly $40,000, or 20 percent.

Watch Tatjana Meschede and Thomas Shapiro present the findings of this study.


Home screen of the Racial Wealth Audit Website

IASP, in collaboration with Demos, is pleased to announce that the Racial Wealth Audit website is live!

The Racial Wealth Audit™, a tool conceptualized by IASP and developed in partnership with the public policy think tank Dēmos, empowers policymakers with a racial equity filter for new policy proposals and existing policy. Shapiro says, “The size of the racial wealth gap is well established, and we know pretty well the factors that make up the gap. The Racial Wealth Audit allows us to play with those factors and see how it impacts the gap. It allows us to ask the question: If a given policy were enacted—or removed—how would that affect different racial groups?”


The Racial Wealth Audit website provides users with some high-level “what-if” scenarios, such as: What if African-Americans and Latinos had the same proportion of bachelor’s degrees as whites—How much would the wealth gap close? The reports and what-if scenarios are supported by real-life stories selected from a database of that IASP has followed since 1998.

Asset Value of Whiteness cover

New Report Shows Racial Wealth Gap is Structural and Fueled by Public Policy

The Institute on Assets and Social Policy (IASP) at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management and Demos released a new report that explores popular explanations for the racial wealth gap between African-American, Latino, and white households. The report demonstrates that changing individual behavior in areas such as education, family structure, full- or part-time employment, and personal consumption habits would not reverse the economic harm done by structural racism.

The report’s findings reveal that similar achievements do not lead to similar rewards in terms of wealth for whites and households of color.  Though attending college, getting married, and working full time are all associated with more wealth for each group, the asset value of the household level experiences explored in the analysis is substantially greater for white households than for black and Latino families.  The investigation highlights that the ongoing structural barriers to wealth equality in the U.S. cannot be combated at the individual or household level. Instead, public policy is needed to eliminate racial wealth disparities.

cover of Equitable InvestmentsEnsuring Equitable Investments in the Next Generation

In Equitable Investments in the Next Generation: Designing Policies to Close the Racial Wealth Gap, IASP and the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) build on findings from analyses using the Racial Wealth Audit—first launched by IASP and Demos—to focus attention on the ways in which education policy proposals can reduce or exacerbate racial wealth disparities.  The analysis reveals the potential role that educational policies in the areas of student debt, higher education, and asset-development for youth may have in promoting equity and reducing the racial wealth gap.  By comparing racial wealth disparities seen today with projected wealth outcomes by race and ethnicity following the implementation of proposed policy solutions, the report suggests promising frameworks for new policy proposals, including targeted universalism, and cautions policymakers to avoid educational investments that could deepen existing wealth inequalities.

Toxic Inequality coverShapiro's new book to be published March 2017

Toxic Inequality: How America's Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, & Threatens Our Future

Economic inequality is at historic highs, but its impact differs by race. African Americans' net wealth is just a tenth that of white Americans and in recent decades white families have accumulated wealth at three times the rate of black families. In our increasingly diverse nation, sociologist Thomas M. Shapiro argues, wealth disparities must be understood in tandem with racial inequities--a dangerous combination he terms "toxic inequality." Toxic inequality has been forged by history and preserved by policy, and only bold, race-conscious reforms can move us toward a more just society. Toxic Inequality is available for preorder from IndieBound or Amazon. Read more about the book here.

"Everyone concerned about the toxic effects of inequality must read this book.” — Robert B. Reich, author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few

Shapiro discusses the Racial Wealth Audit

Featured Projects

SJP7 thumbnailSeventh Secure Jobs brief issued: Skills Training for Homeless Families

This report uses data on Secure Jobs participants who entered skills training to explain how Secure Jobs sites use short-term skills training programs for their participants.  Key findings include: Secure Jobs participants who enroll in skills training programs are comparable to those who do not, and they show moderate employment gains, most notably in job retention.  Secure Jobs participants choose training programs in subjects ranging from health care to manufacturing.  About half have chosen training in healthcare-related fields. Participants who enter training in traditionally female-dominated fields, including healthcare, sales and service, are more likely to find employment than those in traditionally male-dominated fields such as construction and manufacturing.

MCHC coverBecoming a Culturally Effective Organization: A Case Study of the Manchester Community Health Center

Manchester, New Hampshire, is home to an increasingly diverse population, where disparities in access to care and health outcomes are prevalent. These health disparities are exacerbated by racial and socio-economic inequities in educational attainment, access to quality jobs, and neighborhood resources. Healthcare organizations around the U.S. -- in small communities as well as large urban centers -- will increasingly seek to implement strategies that improve quality and equity. Since 2013 and with funding from the Endowment for Health, the Manchester Community Health Center (MCHC) has been working on a project to become a Center of Excellence in Culturally Effective Care. IASP partnered with the health center to provide technical assistance and study the implementation of a range of organizational change strategies that move MCHC along their path to becoming a culturally effective organization. This case study, Becoming a Culturally Effective Organization: A Case Study of the Manchester Community Health Center, sheds light on strategies appropriate for community health centers in communities becoming ever more diverse that are read to embark on an organizational change process to deliver high quality care to all. 

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

click here to download briefCaregiving responsibilities and changes in household composition, such as divorce or separation, create financial challenges that disproportionately affect women. The seventh brief in the Leveraging Mobility series, “Tipping the Scale: How Assets Shape Economic Wellbeing for Women and Families,” examines how families leverage neighborhood, institutional, and personal resources to protect against these gendered, wealth-stripping forces. Framed by national trends that point to racial disparities in access to these resources, the brief uses comparative case studies to explore how unequal access shapes the set of strategies and trade-offs available to women and their families. A webinar cosponsored by IASP and PolicyLink was held on December 10

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