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Savings, Responsibility, and Opportunity in America

When President Clinton signed the welfare reform bill in 1996, he changed the moral debate over poverty by linking benefits to work. However, an opportunity was missed to create a new type of safety net that recognized not just the importance of income but having access to a stock of savings and assets as well. While much attention has been focused on income volatility, severe fluctuations in wealth and low asset holdings undermine the potential for economic mobility. In his new paper, "Savings, Responsibility and Opportunity in America," NYU Sociologist Dalton Conley explores how our understanding of poverty, class, and mobility would be enhanced by expanding our focus from an individual's position in the labor market to include their ability to save and accumulate assets over the life course. This perspective has relevant implications for the transmission of economic status across generations and elevates the importance of identifying a set of promising policy proposals that help families increase their savings over the long term.
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