US Economy

Reconnecting Work and Wealth: A Report from the 2016 Aspen Institute Economic Security Summit

June 1, 2017  • Anne Kim, Financial Security Program & Economic Opportunities Program

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For the first time in 2016, two of the Aspen Institute’s policy programs—the Financial Security Program (FSP) and the Economic Opportunities Program (EOP)— joined forces to craft a new, vibrant conversation exploring how critical changes over the past decade have re-shaped both labor and financial markets, leaving families ever more vulnerable. The result was the first annual Economic Security Summit which took place October 18–20, 2016 in Aspen, Colorado. Under the “Reconnecting Work and Wealth” theme, the Summit was an opportunity for leaders from industry, academia, philanthropy, government, and non-profit organizations to grapple with challenges that undergird growing levels of financial insecurity, income, and wealth inequality in America. Through an intense and expansive dialogue that unfolded over two and a half days, participants found common ground, made connections, and explored new solutions to these pressing issues.

Can traditional paths to the middle class be restored, or should there be new routes to economic mobility and financial security?

Given the intertwined nature of household financial and employment challenges, and the ways that these compound problems destabilize families, communities, and even the larger economy and democracy, leaders can no longer be content to focus on partial solutions or explore ideas in siloed discussions. The Summit was an ambitious and forward-looking effort to craft a crosssector, inter-disciplinary dialogue where participants grappled with the multiple economic forces whose compounding effects are destabilizing many American households. By weaving together economics and values, business and finance, culture and policy, the Summit stimulated a dynamic discussion between thought-leaders from different sectors and political vantage points who are invested in finding workable solutions to America’s economic security crisis. Participant contributions from this Summit have been essential in shaping the joint programming of the Aspen Institute’s Reconnecting Work and Wealth Initiative. This report incorporates these insights and provides an outline for future policy dialogue and directions.