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HomePolicy Articles Article Summary

Asset-Based Social Policies – A "New Idea" Whose Time Has Come?

Commentary by Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson approaches the topic of asset-based social policies as an “informed skeptic.” Jackson attended a conference that underscored “the importance of assets as a route of escape from poverty.” Currently, asset-based social policies consist of experiments to promote asset accumulation through savings or endowments for welfare recipients and the working poor. The author explores such initiatives in the United States, Britain, and Canada.

Assets, particularly financial assets, give people some control over their lives. Government policies actively promote and support asset accumulation for the middle class, whereas welfare recipients and the working poor are discouraged, and even penalized, if they accrue assets. Jackson raises and reflects on several questions regarding asset-based experiments: 1) Why force the poor to save? 2) Why not invest in public programs, supports, and services? 3) Is individual saving an efficient way to accumulate assets? and 4) Why not fix current problems first? He also questions the significance and long-term benefit of these programs and their potential influence on the development of social policy in Canada.

Jackson concludes it would be preferable to take away the “forced” saving element of asset-based programs. Further, he suggests it is important not to divert resources from programs that provide subsidies to initiatives such as early childhood education, training, or higher education because these initiatives directly increase the assets of low-income individuals and families. Jackson posits that valuable insights can be learned from the asset-based approach, which can be applied to the broader process of income security reform.

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Policy Publication Details

Author(s): Andrew Jackson;
Publisher: Caledon Institute of Social Policy [ Visit Website ]
Year Published: 2004; Publisher Type: Research Institute
Publicly Available: Yes Research Focus: International; National;
Registration Required: No Language: English
Payment Required: No Publication Format: Adobe PDF

Subjects / Categories:

Policy Articles / Children & Family / Poverty
Policy Articles / Children & Family / Poverty / 2004
Policy Articles / Children & Family
Policy Articles / Welfare & Social Issues
Policy Articles / Welfare & Social Issues / Poverty
Policy Articles / Welfare & Social Issues / Poverty / 2004


Keywords / Tags:

asset-based social policies; poverty reduction; asset accumulation; welfare recipients; working poor; United States; Canada; Britain; asset-based program experiments; asset-based programs; income security reform; low-income families;