Asset Building Program

Archives: Asset Building Program Articles and Op-Eds

Credit Unions Launch a Savings Lottery, and Everyone Hits the Jackpot

  • By
  • Anne Stuhldreher,
  • New America Foundation
February 7, 2010 |

Highland Park, Mich., is the last place you'd expect to find more people saving money these days. One-third of the residents live below the poverty line, and everyone sees the blight of vacant homes, abandoned furniture and dumped tires. It seems like a ridiculous place to launch an experiment to turn nonsavers into regular savers.

But eight Michigan credit unions, including one in Highland Park, have helped build people's savings by doing something radical: acting less like financial institutions and more like the lottery.

Americans Must Start Saving Again

  • By
  • David Newville,
  • New America Foundation
December 23, 2009 |

This year, despite the recession and record-high unemployment, Americans appear to be getting into the holiday spirit by starting to shop again.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing given that consumer spending makes up more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

Americans, however, should not go into debt to buy presents. Just as important, they need to start saving before they spend.

A Better Way for Payday Loans

  • By
  • Anne Stuhldreher,
  • New America Foundation
December 21, 2009 |

It's a cycle that seems to repeat itself every legislative session in California. Advocates put forward a bill to curb the predatory practices of payday lenders. Then industry lobbyists squelch the effort, convincing state lawmakers that they're the lenders of last resort, the only ones who haven't abandoned low-income neighborhoods.

In Pursuit of a Responsible Homeownership Policy

  • By
  • Reid Cramer,
  • New America Foundation
November 30, 2009 |

While the burst of the housing bubble recedes into the past, its echo continues to reverberate throughout the economy and in communities across the land. The U.S. housing market remains a mess. Home values have steeply fallen from their 2006 peaks, loan defaults have reached historic levels, and the implosion of the housing finance system may take years to rectify. The latest figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association report over 8 percent of all mortgages were at least one month late during the first quarter of 2009, which is the highest figure since tracking began almost 40 years ago.

Turn America into a Nation of Savers

  • By
  • Reid Cramer,
  • New America Foundation
November 9, 2009 |

In pursuit of an economic recovery, President Obama has argued that we must transition from an "era of borrow-and-spend to one where we save and invest." It is an appealing concept, especially as the disappearance of surplus assets and historic levels of debt helped transform a garden-variety business cycle recession into a historic collapse.

But how does the saving and investing square with high levels of government borrowing and spending to stimulate the economy, protect those thrown out of work, and prop up consumer demand?

How Microloans Change the Lives of Millions

  • By
  • Shweta Banerjee,
  • New America Foundation
October 26, 2009 |

A recent op-ed in the Boston Globe argues that microlending "doesn't actually do much to fight poverty" and that it may be time to "think macro rather than micro." Maybe the hype surrounding microcredit as a panacea for everything from poverty to discrimination is undeserved. But debunking the whole bottom-up, micro approach on the basis of two unpublished papers is not just premature, but dangerous. Macro, trickle-down developmentpolicies have rather effectively kept billions of people poor for decades.

After Oppenheimer: Improving College Savings Plans

  • By
  • David Newville,
  • Rourke OBrien,
  • New America Foundation
September 8, 2009 |

After their children's college savings accounts lost 38 percent of their value last year, some Illinois parents might be seeing some justice soon. The Illinois Treasurer's office recently reached a tentative deal with Oppenheimer funds to recover $77 million of the $85 million in losses.

Self-Sufficiency Stalled

  • By
  • Rourke OBrien,
  • New America Foundation
  • and David Pedulla, Princeton University
June 13, 2009 |

Given the demonstrated link between transportation and employment, wouldn’t it be counterproductive to force families to surrender or downgrade their car in order to be eligible for assistance?

This recession marks the first time since welfare reform that policymakers are revisiting the social safety net.

Yet when thousands of families are struggling to find and keep employment, some on Beacon Hill threatened to cut the one tool proven effective in moving families from welfare to work: a car.

Combating Poverty by Building Assets

  • By
  • Ray Boshara,
  • Jamie M. Zimmerman,
  • New America Foundation
June 1, 2009 |

A child in Uganda, orphaned when his parents died of AI DS, is off the streets and avoiding AI DS himself by saving money for secondary school with the support of the innovative Suubi project, which provides poor children with Child Development Accounts. In China's western Xinjiang region, a poor rural farmer sees his "dead," or untouchable, pension savings become "live," or usable income-producing assets, thanks to the work of a visionary local government bureaucrat.

New Ideas For Strengthening Federal Rental Assistance

  • By
  • Reid Cramer,
  • New America Foundation
  • and Jeffrey Lubell
May 14, 2009 |

Tough economic times are straining what is already a maxed-out system of social services. Despite the attention being paid to beleaguered homeowners, renters are being squeezed as well. Since an increasing number of Americans simply earn too little to afford to rent a decent home, one vital element of our social net is the provision of rental housing assistance. To help these families meet their basic needs for shelter, the federal government spends more than $25 billion a year through a mix of housing vouchers and direct subsidies to help about four million households.

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