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Policies to promote economic stability, asset building, and child development

Lewis, Melinda
Cramer, Reid
Sprague, Aleta
Wealth Transfer
Publication type: 
Journal Article

This paper makes the case that the pattern low-income families walk into is a present time-oriented or consumption-based welfare system, with attendant incentives and disincentives; in contrast, the pattern higher-income families walk into is future-oriented or asset-based. These two divergent systems do not deliver equitable educational outcomes for children. To ensure that higher education can play an equalizing role in the U.S. economy, the nation needs a better welfare system for the poor, one that builds on the asset-accumulation structures that serve the needs of advantaged families. This new institutional approach would undo the current system of educational advantages for higher-income children over low-income children and, in turn, redress educational inequalities in America. In order to create a level playing field welfare policies are needed that enable low-income families to accumulate assets. In this paper we discuss policies that might help low-income families accumulate assets, including modifications to existing income supports, as well as the development of complementary asset-based institutions.


Lewis, M., Cramer, R., Elliott, W., and Spraque, A. (2013). Policies to promote economic stability, asset building, and child development. Children and Youth Services Review, 36, 15-21.

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