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Abstract

Inclusive asset building as a social policy innovation is a relative “newcomer” in policy discussions and research. The context is that since the middle of the 20th century, many countries implemented asset-building policy that is not inclusive, serves mostly the well-off, and is highly

regressive. In the United States, for example, the largest policy mechanisms are in tax benefits for home owning and saving for retirement. Altogether in the United States, such policies transfer about $500 billion dollars per year to the non-poor, most of this to the top 10%. This of course exacerbates inequalities in wealth and social development. In contrast, ideal features of an inclusive asset building policies are universal, lifelong, and progressive. Everyone would build assets, with higher public subsidies to the poor than to the rich. The main policy instrument would be a system of accounts where assets accumulate, to be used for a wide range of social purposes, including education, housing, health, and retirement security. Ideally accounts would begin at birth, and serve multiple purposes across the life course. Rationales for this policy innovation include both economicsecurity and positive development effects of asset accumulation. Results of rigorous research are promising. Policy pathways and potential are considered in this paper.

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