Asset Building News Week, September 29-October 3

article | October 03, 2014

The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include the 2014 Assets Learning Conference, Census data, inequality, savings, and debt.


Evidence that inequality is growing in size and pace continues piling up. A chart that easily summarizes this new evidence received massive attention on social media and in the mainstream media. According to the chart, the vast majority of income gains from economic expansions since the 1980s have gone to the top 10%, here’s Neil Irwin explaining for the New York Times.

Matt Yglesias at highlights declining incomes for young workers during the “recovery.” In spite of steady job growth workers, particularly young workers, aren’t seeing very much in terms of increased wages. It’s hard to dig out of the inequality hole if the young and those with low-wages keep taking it on the chin.


Is the American public willing to tackle poverty and inequality? Writing at Rooflines Alan Jenkins from Opportunity Nation highlights new polling from his organization that shows "Americans now rank addressing poverty as a high priority on the national agenda" and “A record number of Americans understand that poverty is more a factor of unequal opportunity than lack of effort.”

In honor of National Coffee Day, Helaine Olen authored a twitter essay (thanks to Mike Dang at The Billfold for making it into a Storify) explaining how structural factors are more important than small expenses in determining financial health, and how “The Latte Factor” misses the mark.

Rep. Paul Ryan famously proposed a new plan to tackle poverty earlier this year. One key aspect of that plan is to rely heavily on what some have called “life coaches” for the poor. Daniel Luzer writes in Governing magazine that a version of this approach has been tried in Nebraska. The takeaway? It can work, but it is expensive.

Danielle Kurtzleben examined the challenges that come with being poor and having an inconsistent income flow, citing the US Financial Diaries project.

Josh Ishimatsu took on the "Model Minority Myth” for @Shelterforce and highlighted that lumping people into vast groups by “race” can obscure more than it clarifies.

Quick Hits

This ProPublica/This American Life story on the fecklensness of our bank regulators after the financial crisis is a week old, but it really deserves a read, or a listen.

Our current criminal justice system makes it harder for those who have made mistakes to fully atone for their deeds and rejoin the productive segment of society.

You may have heard that Wal-Mart is has found a way to provide banking services to their customers. FiveThirtyEight takes a look at the data and notes that there’s a lot of overlap between being unbanked and being a Wal-Mart customer.