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ASU is working with communities to develop policy ideas or startup concepts that will either raise incomes or decrease costs for middle class Americans. The teams compete for up to $1 million in implementation funding.
The middle class once served as the backbone of the American economy, but the share of these households has been steadily declining since the 1980s. Homeownership, once a staple of the middle class, is now out of reach for many families with fewer affordable entry points for first-time homebuyers. In 2018, nearly 40% of American households could not afford an unexpected $400 emergency expense. For too many, the American Dream – the belief that anyone who works hard can get ahead – is fading.
The economic prosperity of the past decade has not been equally shared by all Americans. These gains have primarily benefited families living in urban areas and those with a college or advanced degree. Further disparities exist along racial and ethnic lines. These trends threaten the competitiveness and supremacy of the American economy.
The Alliance for the American Dream, a network of communities, each anchored by a public research university, seeks to stabilize and expand the middle class in four communities across the US by providing access to capital and access to market for new ideas. The Alliance, comprised of ASU, The Ohio State University, University of Utah and University of Wisconsin-Madison, maintains the belief that the presence of a healthy and robust middle class makes it more likely that low-income individuals and households will successfully climb out of and remain out of poverty.
With an initial grant of $1.5 million, each university is working with their respective communities to catalyze and support ideas that seek to strengthen and grow the middle class. Through the implementation of these ideas, local households will experience greater upward mobility toward an expanded middle class. This can include solutions in areas such as education, entrepreneurship, housing, workforce development and healthcare.