The search for an ‘asset-effect’: What do we want from asset-based welfare?

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This article calls for a critical revaluation of the case for asset-based welfare as a progressive strategy for greater social inclusion. Whilst there is a strong case for helping low-income households to build a financial cushion, the idea that there is a stronger ‘asset-effect’ – with positive benefits beyond financial stability and access to goods and services – is unsupported by current evidence. Recent interpretations of that evidence have tended to claim a unique asset-effect that could in fact be achieved by other means. The idea of an asset-effect is also normatively opaque in the current debate, with little clarity on the deeper issue of the individual behaviours that the ‘effect’ is intended to create. This leaves an ambiguity in the relationship between asset-based welfare and the rights and duties of citizenship; a lacuna that is easily exploited by ideologies of self-sufficiency at the expense of more egalitarian accounts of social inclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-494
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Social Policy
Issue number4
Early online date30 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • citizenship
  • ownership
  • self-sufficiency
  • social inclusion


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