Michael Sherraden’s book, Assets and the Poor: A New American Welfare Policy, broke new ground on social policy in 1991. Twenty years later, its impact still is being felt around the world. In Assets and the Poor, Sherraden, PhD, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, writes that asset accumulation is structured and subsidized for many non-poor households, primarily via retirement accounts and home ownership. He argues that these opportunities should be available to all and proposes establishing individual savings accounts for the poor — also known as Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). Since Sherraden first proposed IDAs, they have been adopted in federal legislation and in more than 40 states.
Welfare to work leaves some out in the coldThe Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 dramatically changed the nation’s welfare rules. The act ended low-income families’ entitlement to cash assistance and changed the welfare program from a system of income support to one based on work. “Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this legislation is that a segment of welfare recipients, probably the most disadvantaged group, left or were forced to leave welfare without having the proper means to live,” says Yunju Nam, Ph.D., assistant professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.