If the poor and near-poor Americans are to achieve lasting economic advancement, we need to promote a path that provides a better “starting gate,” as well as helps individuals and families to weather economic hardships. In our view, asset building is key. This is true for rural as well as urban households.
The purpose of this paper is to undertake an initial and rough assessment of asset building efforts in rural states. It begins by setting the scene through short discussions of why broadened asset ownership matters, how has the United States supported opportunity-enhancing asset policies in the past, and what the federal government is doing today to advance this agenda. We then argue that the current fiscal distress faced by our national government hinders it from playing a larger role. So, during the next decade, innovative states are the most likely candidates to be the champion of more inclusive asset policies and a major public investor. Next, we compare state-by-state the assets base of their citizenry and the policies that can help or hinder their ability to get ahead. Following this, we analyze the current practice of America’s 15 most rural states. The paper concludes with a brief series of suggestions for rural asset policymakers, advocates, and practitioners.
There is also a thesis that runs through this paper. The American Dream rests on two pillars: first, a family’s ability to build assets that can be used to invest for the future, send children to college, and weather unexpected financial storms; and second, safety nets and safeguards that provide financial security in the event of a job loss, medical emergency, or other life events that could otherwise put a family into a tailspin.
Schweke, W. (2005). Wealth building strategies in rural states: Are they doing enough? (CSD Working Paper No. 05-54). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.