Economic Development

Building Wealth in the US

July 20, 2023  • The Aspen Partnership for an Inclusive Economy

We have spoken often of The New Wealth Agenda, the ambitious—but achievable—plan to increase the wealth of the bottom half of the US wealth distribution and households of color ten-fold by 2050. The 50-page version of the plan is a deep exploration of issues and possibilities and is a perfect summer read for the inclusive economy wonk. 

For a more general audience, however, the Agenda has been elegantly explicated by Joanna Smith-Ramani, co-executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Financial Security Program. In a recent video interview by Ramona Schindelheim, editor-in-chief of WorkingNation, she lays out the promise of the plan.

“We’re not starting from a place of no wealth for anyone,” says Smith-Ramani. “The problem is we don’t have enough wealth for most people.” While most approaches to closing the wealth gap focus on a single issue like housing, retirement savings, or education, she says we must take a more holistic look, because “there’s a set of systems that are interacting in our country that either build wealth or don’t allow wealth to build.” In short, we’ve got to harness the power of private- and public-sector solutions across the board and all at once.

The full interview, part of the Aspen Ignites series, can be viewed here. A podcast version is available on the WorkingNation website.

It’s Time to Shine a Light on Small Business Lending

Small businesses need access to fair and affordable credit. But, writes Joyce Klein of the Institute’s Business Ownership Initiative in a recent op-ed for The Hill, “Literally no one knows how much small business lending is happening, or what it costs those businesses, or how many businesses are being shut out of needed credit.” But that’s about to change.

What’s new:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released a regulation to begin collecting and publishing data from lenders across the small business financing market, with the biggest banks and lenders collecting data next fall and reporting it in 2025.

Why it matters:

Writes Klein, “A new regulation that helps level the playing field between small businesses and lenders, that boosts fair competition and innovation in the small business credit market, and that enables policymakers and regulators to hold lenders accountable in treating small businesses fairly—that’s a huge win for small businesses and for America.”

Who will benefit:

  • Rural businesses. As the number of community banks declines, rural businesses (anecdotally) find it harder to find funds. The new data will help other lenders identify where these businesses have credit needs going unmet. 
  • Minority-owned businesses. “A 2022 study by the Federal Reserve found that firms owned by people of color were less likely than white-owned firms to be approved for financing by a wide range of lenders,” writes Klein. Comprehensive, meaningful data enables policymakers and regulators to hold lenders accountable. 
  • Lenders. “Comprehensive national data will also be a resource for lenders (including potentially new lending startups) who will be able to use the information to identify opportunities, innovate, and compete,” writes Klein. 
  • All of us. Because they are key to job creation and economic growth, small businesses are vital to American communities and to the economy as a whole. 

Read the whole piece here.

Aspen Principles for Latino Digital Success

Latinos in the US are a powerhouse of economic potential, making up an ever-growing percentage of new workers and skewing younger than other population cohorts. Accordingly, it’s in the country’s best interest to make sure Latinos can contribute to the opportunities offered by technology. But there are serious digital equity gaps that need to be closed, and some guidelines are in order. 

Taking on that mission is the Institute’s Latinos and Society program, which has just released the Aspen Principles for Latino Digital SuccessDiego Deleersnyder, associate director for policy and research with the program, explained the scope of the problem to Government Technology in a recent article about the new publication.

Download the Aspen Principles for Latino Digital Success, and read the Government Technology article about it here.

Related: It’s time to get excited for the annual Aspen Latino Business Summit, happening September 6 and 7 in Washington, DC. The Weekly Slice will be bringing you a preview in our next edition, but you can find out more about attending or sponsoring at the registration page or by emailing

This piece was originally published in APIE’s newsletter ‘The Weekly Slice’. Click here to subscribe