Aspen Institute Launches Intense Investigations Into Emerging Threats to the Financial Security of American Families

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Aspen Institute today launched an ambitious, first-of-its-kind project to shine light on economic forces that severely impact the financial security of American families. The Expanding Prosperity Impact Collaborative (EPIC) is an unparalleled effort to identify consumer finance issues that have widespread, mainstream import but are unexplored relative to their consequences for millions of Americans. EPIC will connect diverse, multi-sector teams of experts to deeply analyze the current state of knowledge on these vital issues and deliver a fresh framework upon which policymakers and industry leaders can build evidence-based solutions. EPIC will raise the profile of misunderstood and overlooked economic challenges and bring unconventional insights to thought leaders and decision-makers.

EPIC’s inaugural topic is income volatility, which destabilizes the budgets of nearly half of all American

“EPIC’s investigations will focus intensely on emerging issues that pose a significant threat to family financial well-being – issues that we as a society have yet to address,” said Ida Rademacher, executive director of the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program that launched the project. “Through the convening power of the Aspen Institute, we will spotlight thought leaders who offer policymakers and industry innovators unorthodox solutions and new ways of understanding. Our process will elevate high quality research to expand visibility and commitment to action. EPIC will translate this research, identify gaps and inform the development of a new generation of policies and products that help millions of Americans achieve greater financial stability.”

Income Volatility
“With ongoing economic flux, and the rise of the gig economy, too many families suffer hardships from month-to-month, week-to-week, or even day-to-day fluctuations in workers’ incomes,” said Joanna Smith-Ramani, associate director of the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program and leader of EPIC. “It’s hard to pay rent, take risks or save for tomorrow when your income constantly dips and spikes. But experts lack consensus on the prevalence, causes and impacts of income volatility, or our options for reducing it. EPIC will connect new insights to new audiences and advance understanding of how to mitigate the debilitating impacts of income volatility on American workers.”

EPIC convened experts this spring to determine the scale and scope of income volatility, and its consequences for the financial, physical and emotional lives of low- to moderate-income workers. In June, these experts will forge consensus around credible policy frameworks and solutions to mitigate the negative impacts of volatility. Surveys and convenings will leverage a wide range of perspectives from academics, industry leaders, policymakers, advocates, employers, journalists, financial service providers, and others who will inform and enhance EPIC’s findings, to be released in July 2016. EPIC will announce the next issue in its series following this release.

EPIC’s work is supported by our seed funder, JP Morgan Chase & Co., as well as Ford Foundation, MetLife Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and by the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program’s other core funders.

“Financial insecurity not only negatively impacts households, but also communities and the economy at large,” said Colleen Briggs, Executive Director, Global Financial Inclusion, JP Morgan Chase. “The JP Morgan Chase Institute identified that income volatility is pervasive across income levels and that most households do not have the savings buffer they need to withstand these fluctuations. We’re excited to work with Aspen and other leaders to better understand and address this and other major economic challenges in order to improve financial health in America.”

“Ford Foundation is excited to partner with the Aspen Institute in the EPIC project’s pilot year as we explore the causes, effects, and prevalence of income volatility,” said Anna Wadia, Senior Program Officer for Inclusive Economies at Ford Foundation. “Together we hope to find the intersections where labor and financial markets leave families most vulnerable and to identify solutions that address the root causes of financial insecurity and inequality in all its forms.”

“We commend the Aspen Institute for convening thought leaders and sharing insights that can lead to solutions for improving financial security,” said Dennis White, president and chief executive officer, MetLife Foundation. “At MetLife Foundation we believe that supporting initiatives like EPIC can help more people in the US and around the world have better financial tools so they can manage life’s risks and seize opportunities.”

“We are excited to support the work of the Aspen Institute and its EPIC project,” said Carla D. Thompson, vice president for program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “EPIC will help provide a deep analysis of the issues and barriers that families face in achieving financial security, and offer solutions to help all families and their children succeed.”

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program connects the world’s best minds to find breakthrough solutions for America’s family financial security crisis. Millions of workers, families and retirees endure chronic financial insecurity due to ongoing fallout from the Great Recession, foreclosure crisis and disruptive changes to our economy. FSP advances a new generation of policies, products and services that enable more Americans to meet basic financial needs, and withstand financial shocks, while saving for long-term goals like college, home ownership and retirement. For more information, visit:

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. For more information, visit

Source: Press Release (link opens in a new window)

financial inclusion