Presidential hopefuls, policy wonks and advocates from the Left have given the idea of ownership a bad rap. These are many of the same folks working on poverty alleviation. Unfortunately, they are missing a crucial element to helping the poor: Property rights and possession of assets are instrumental to poverty alleviation. Contrary to claims by critics that focusing on ownership breaks down communities and fosters an “everyone-for-himself” attitude, research shows asset ownership results in greater community and civic participation by the poor.
Asset ownership is crucial to reducing poverty over time. Researchers have noted that owning assets is both life- and community-changing. An expansive amount of research from across the political spectrum demonstrates the importance of owning assets, particularly for minorities, women and low-income populations. Children are much better off when their parent owns an asset. High school graduation rates increase, lifetime income and homeownership rates increase, while cases of domestic violence and drug abuse decrease. All of these outcomes are linked to owning an asset.
Instead of criticizing and politicizing efforts to increase property rights and ownership for low-income families, anti-poverty advocates and politicians across the political spectrum should be paying more attention to what we know works for families — and work to ensure these rights.
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