Contents | January/Feburary 2003

Ray Boshara: Further reading for "The $6000 Solution"

History, Extent, and Effects of Inequality. The Winter 2002 issue of Daedalus, which focused on inequality, was very helpful to me and provides an excellent summary of some recent serious thinking about inequality in the U.S. and abroad. Inequality Data. All the inequality data cited in this article, which are based on the 1998 Survey of Consumer Finances (a project of the Federal Reserve Board) were analyzed and summarized by NYU professor Edward N. Wolff, the nation's leading researcher on wealth distributions and inequality. See especially Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership, from 1983 to 1998 in Thomas M. Shapiro and Edward N. Wolff eds., Assets for the Poor: The Benefits of Spreading Asset Ownership, 2001. The public version of the 2001 Survey of Consumer Finances is scheduled to be released in February 2003 (see for further information).

Distribution of Tax Benefits For Asset Building. See U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on Taxation, 2002. Estimates of Federal Tax Expenditures for Fiscal Years 2002-2006. Available electronically at, report JCS-1-02. See also Michael Sherraden, Asset-Building Policy and Programs for the Poor in Thomas M. Shapiro and Edward N. Wolff eds., Assets for the Poor: The Benefits of Spreading Asset Ownership, 2001.

Homestead Act. See Trina Williams, The Homestead Act: A Major Asset-building Policy in American History, presented at the Inclusion in Asset Building: Research and Policy Symposium organized by the Center for Social Development, September 2000. Available at

GI Bill. See, from West's Encyclopedia of American Law.

Number of births in the U.S. See the Web site of the National Center for Health Statistics (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Accounts at birth. The idea to establish savings accounts at birth—as a route toward a more widespread, inclusive savings and asset building system—was initially (and separately) proposed over a decade ago by Michael Sherraden and former IRS Commissioner Fred T. Goldberg, Jr., now with Skadden Arps, a law firm in Washington, D.C. For further information on Prime Minister Blair's Baby Bonds proposal, see

Number of children in asset-poor households. See Racial Legacies, by Thomas M. Shapiro, forthcoming (August 2003) from Oxford University Press.

Corporate taxation. Based on calculations of Maya MacGuineas of the New America Foundation (, who calculates that corporate welfare totals over $160 billion per year.

Effects of assets. See Edward Scanlon and Deborah Page-Adams (2001), Effects of Asset Holding on Neighborhoods, Families, and Children: A Review of Research. in Building Assets: A Report on the Asset-Development and IDA Field, edited by Ray Boshara. Available at or by calling 202-408-9788.

I thank James Tobin for inspiring the last sentence of my piece. Tobin, in Richard Freeman's The New Inequality (1999) says, "They [conservatives] choose to ignore the unpleasant reality that one generation's inequality of outcomes is the next generation's inequality of opportunity."

Further Information and Reading

The idea of building assets for the poor, as a new direction in 20th century social policy, was first proposed by Michael Sherraden in the late 1980s and then fully developed in his Assets and the Poor (1991). He also proposed an asset-building tool called Individual Development Accounts, or IDAs, which are matched savings accounts for low-income persons typically used for homeownership, post-secondary education, and small business development. Sherraden is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, where he continues to lead research on assets and IDAs. His writings and activities can be found at the Web site of the Center for Social Development (which Sherraden directs) at or by calling 314-935-7433. I am very grateful to Michael Sherraden for some initial ideas for this essay, and for reviewing earlier drafts.

Robert E. Friedman, founder and chair of the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), pioneered the field of asset development for the poor, especially policies and community-based programs for IDAs. Thanks largely to Friedman and CFED, over 20,000 persons in the U.S. now have IDAs, all them supported by over 500 community-based organizations with matching funds coming from a variety of private and public sources. IDAs, while a downpayment on a much larger system and vision, have established that the poor (even the poorest of the poor) can save and acquire assets. See and, or call 202-408-9788 for further information. In particular, see data from the American Dream Demonstration (ADD), a national demonstration of IDAs organized by CFED. The most recent report from ADD can be found at

Asset-Building Books

Inclusion in the American Dream: Assets, Poverty, and Public Policy, edited by Michael Sherraden and Lisa Morris (forthcoming)

Owning Up: Poverty, Assets, and the American Dream, by Michelle Miller-Adams (2002)

Assets for the Poor: The Benefits of Spreading Asset Ownership, edited by Thomas M. Shapiro and Edward N. Wolff (2001)

Building Assets: A Report on the Asset Development and IDA Field, edited by Ray Boshara (2001)

Savings for the Poor, by Michael A. Stegman (1999)

Assets and the Poor, by Michael Sherraden (1991)

Race and Wealth—Key Books

The seminal book on race and wealth is Black Wealth/White Wealth by Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro (1995). Another important book on this topic is Dalton Conley’s Being Black, Living in the Red (1999). Finally, look for Racial Legacies by Shapiro, forthcoming (in August 2003).

Asset-Building Web sites

The Aspen Institute, Initiative on Financial Security. Forthcoming at

Brandeis University, Center on Hunger and Poverty, Asset Development Institute

Capitol Ownership Group

Consumer Federation of America, America Saves Campaign

Corporation for Enterprise Development

Doorways to Dreams

First Nations Development Institute


National Council of La Raza

National Center for Employee Ownership

National Endowment for Financial Education

New America Foundation, Asset Building Program

New America Foundation, National Clearinghouse on Asset Ownership and Policies,
www.assetbuilding.orgforthcoming (Spring 2003)

Responsible Wealth

Shared Capitalism Institute


UNC-Chapel Hill, Kenan Institute, Center for Community Capitalism

Washington University, Center for Social Development

World Institute on Disability

Related Books

Wealth and Democracy, by Kevin Phillips (2002)

Who Owns the Sky: Our Common Assets and the Future of Capitalism, by Peter Barnes (2001)

A Poverty of Imagination: Bootstrap Capitalism, Sequel to Welfare Reform, by David Stoesz (2000)

The Stakeholder Society, by Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott (1999)

The New Inequality: Creating Solutions for Poor Americans, by Richard B. Freeman (1999).

Development as Freedom, by Amartya Sen (1999)

The Ownership Solution: Toward a Shared Capitalism for the 21st Century, by Jeff Gates (1998)

The Hidden Welfare State: Tax Expenditures and Social Policy in the United States, by Christopher Howard (1997).

Inequality—Recent Information

Daedalus, Winter 2002. Special issue on Inequality.

Economic Policy Institute (, especially The State of Working America 2002-2003, by Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein, and Heather Boushey

Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership, from 1983 to 1998 in Thomas M. Shapiro and Edward N. Wolff eds., Assets for the Poor: The Benefits of Spreading Asset Ownership, 2001

Census Bureau (income inequality)

Cornel University, Center for the Study of Inequality

Federal Reserve Board, Survey of Consumer Finances (wealth inequality)

Harvard University, Multidisciplinary Program on Inequality and Social Policy

Luxembourg Income Study rankings of income inequality)

World Bank Poverty Net "A network of journalists, writers and researchers trying to look beyond conventional economics and its notions of prosperity and progress."

International Asset Building

For an overview of asset building efforts outside the U.S., see Javier Silva's summary at

In the U.K, see the Institute for Public Policy Research at

Within OECD countries, see the work of the LEED Programme at,,EN-home-545-nodirectorate-no-no-no-5,00.html


Several foundations have, through their generous support and guidance, pioneered the asset-building field, beginning in the mid-1990s. These include: The Ford Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Joyce Foundation, F.B. Heron Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Citigroup Foundation, Fannie Mae Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Levi Strauss Foundation, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and the Moriah Fund.

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