Evidence and Ideas for Change Here’s how we achieve financial security for all
Sarah Rosen Wartell
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My recent dispatches have centered on the Urban Institute’s Next50 Catalyst briefs, which highlight some of the big ideas being tested and debated today in a variety of domains—ideas to which Urban can help bring deeper knowledge through data and analysis. Our newest release explores three bold strategies toward a future where all families have the financial security to provide for their children, live lives of stability and dignity, and invest in their futures. We also identify the data and analytics elected officials, philanthropies, businesses, and nonprofits say they need to advance their ideas for helping families achieve and maintain financial well-being.

The challenges to people’s financial well-being are profound. Today, almost 40 million Americans live in poverty. Having a job no longer guarantees that people can afford their basic needs of food, shelter, and medical care. Many families don’t have the savings to cover unplanned expenses. All this happens in the context of our country’s long history of racial inequity, which has left families of color more exposed to the risks of financial disruption. In the decades ahead, rapid technological innovation, demographic shifts, and climate change threaten to widen these economic and racial divides.

As part of our Next50 initiative, Urban spoke with leaders at all levels—from grassroots activists to financial technology innovators—who are experimenting with solutions to narrow these economic and racial inequities and help families attain financial well-being. The approaches we highlight—starting with the most ambitious—aim to achieve the following:

  • Ensure stable incomes and employment through basic income programs or by guaranteeing jobs.
  • Protect family finances through wage and wealth insurance, including protections when extreme weather events disrupt people’s jobs.
  • Expand financial products and services to help families save money, access affordable credit, and transition toward long-term wealth building.

Urban experts also surfaced areas where lawmakers, advocates, companies, and others need more evidence to better understand the pros, cons, and consequences of the strategies they’re testing. Here’s how they can gain that knowledge:

  • Forecast the effects of basic income and job guarantee experiments, applying a common yardstick to assess how they affect people’s economic well-being.
  • Assess wage insurance reforms to learn their effects on workers, labor markets, and the broader economy.
  • Map the connections between climate change events and financial well-being to understand the short- and long-term effects for families and the need for a “climate safety net.” 
  • Explore whether wealth insurance is a viable option to protect family assets.
  • Harness new data and technology to better understand critical gaps in access to financial products and services.

I hope you find our newest Catalyst brief as engaging as I do and that you continue to stay tuned in the coming weeks as I share what we’ve learned from other inquiries. As always, I’m eager to hear your reactions to our ongoing exploration of what it would take to advance equity and upward mobility in the decades ahead.

In case you missed it: Be sure to check out our two-part Critical Value podcast episode about Denver’s innovative approach to tackling chronic homelessness, as well as our compelling feature story on the same topic.

Research Areas Wealth and financial well-being Climate, disasters, and environment