Economic Development

How Do You Define an Inclusive Economy?

May 23, 2023  • The Aspen Partnership for an Inclusive Economy

How do we define an inclusive economy? *

An inclusive economy is an economic system that includes everyone, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, personal background, dis/ability status, or other traits, and respects their individual roles as workers, dependents, students, family members, entrepreneurs, and business owners.

An inclusive economy provides for the free and fair exchange of goods and services while allowing all people to earn a living wage, start and grow a business, put aside savings for their family, demonstrate resilience in the face of unexpected shocks, plan for retirement, and play an active role in shaping their own future and the future of generations to come.

An inclusive economy, if we dare dream it together, would provide every person with the economic opportunity to build, maintain, and pass on wealth.

To create an inclusive economy, we must know how to measure the reality we’re living in now. Factors that help us understand economic inclusion can be both quantitative (income, net assets) and qualitative (job quality, worker voice, community participation, and sense of belonging). Our goal must be to improve those metrics one-by-one and as an interdependent set.

We care about individual people: students, workers, family members, households, and business owners.

We recognize that (re-)designing, building, and running an inclusive economy requires the smart minds and dedication of leaders across many sectors. Stakeholders that are important to the work of building an inclusive economy include those in government, the private sector, and the social sector.

These are a few key components of an inclusive economy:

  1. Education. An inclusive economic system would provide access to education for all members of society. Education is a key first ingredient to building an inclusive economy.
  2. Jobs. An inclusive economic system would allow all people to engage in work that pays a fair wage, promotes dignity, and allows people a chance to achieve economic stability. Against the backdrop of globalization, ever-advancing technology, and the boom and bust of certain industries, an inclusive economy helps people find ways to develop, maintain, and adapt new skills that keep them working, contributing, and earning in a way that is free, just, and equitable.
  3. Financial security. An inclusive economy would help households to accumulate, hold, and pass on wealth to the next generation. One key component of this effort is sometimes known as “financial inclusion”—providing people the means to access, use, and benefit from all financial services such as bank accounts, credit, insurance, retirement savings, and investment products.
  4. Entrepreneurship and business. An inclusive economy gives people who want to start and run a business access to the tools to do so. From microenterprises to small- and medium-sized enterprises, business owners are a vital part of the economy and can provide good jobs and great benefits for their workers. So too, the largest corporations in the world have a strong business responsibility to contribute to the broader agenda of an inclusive economy by following fair labor standards, taking part in sustainable business practices, and balancing the need to make profit while respecting people and the planet.
  5. Community development. An inclusive economy acknowledges that each community is unique, and people need to feel supported in their community to thrive and flourish. Community development programs can include education, housing, healthcare, criminal justice reform, economic development, and other initiatives. Community development is needed in rural communities and urban communities, and placed-based discussions are needed in the United States and every country around the globe.
  6. Global interconnectedness. An inclusive economy acknowledges that globalization is here to stay, and that we live in an ever-interconnected world. While questions of global supply chains, conflict and national security, and climate change dominate the headlines, proponents of an inclusive model of the global economy see the world order not through the lens of a zero-sum game, but rather as a global stage on which collaboration, innovation, and exchange can ensure that all the world’s citizens—whether they remain rooted in place or migrate to new countries—can be included, engaged, and treated as valued members of society.

*Our definition, like many things in our society, is dynamic and ever-changing. If you see things that are missing from our definition—or have ideas for more elegant simplifications—please feel free to reach out to us at to give us your suggestions.