Despite a plethora of proposals for helping people build assets, policy researchers have provided little methodological guidance about how best to view and evaluate these policies. This paper is an initial attempt to move in this direction, drawing on methods for assessing income-tested and social insurance programs and on analyses of public policies dealing with savings, investments, and risks. It examines whether and in what ways the traditional criteria of incentives, progressivity, and equity apply to an assessment of asset-building policies. Further, it discusses how to design an asset policy to deal with the potential social dislocations arising from gentrification.
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