Published: June, 2022

Why Four Policy Pillars? Ensuring economic security draws on four ‘pillars’ of policy: Labor, Benefit, Protection, and Equity. In the context of a changing economy and population, the Academy’s Economic Security Study Panel has developed a menu of options to assure income for people in every stage of life, tailored to the four policy pillars. All aim to fulfill the mission of social insurance to reduce and prevent economic insecurity caused by common life struggles like poverty, sickness, injury, and old age. 

Labor Policy
Protection Policy
Benefit Policy
Equity Policy

What is equity policy? 

  • Equity policies address the severe inequities between demographic groups. 
  • Equity policy seeks to address unequal access to opportunities that are critical to building economic security. 
  • There are key equity issues embedded in each of the other three policy pillars 

Challenges to Economic Security and Potential Solutions

  • Intersectional identities: Currently, certain sub-groups of the U.S. population do not have widespread access to key resources and opportunities. Many also face discrimination which actively harms their wellbeing. Equity-focused policies strive to ensure that all people in the United States—regardless of race, immigration status, criminal record, and other factors—have a fair shot at achieving economic security.  
  • Systemic forces: Even as outward displays of discrimination have lessened over the past century, the systems and institutions designed over that period remain at the center of our social and political life. The many systems that reinforce inequality by reducing and limiting opportunities for economically insecure individuals must be reshaped. 
    • In the U.S., Black people are imprisoned at 4.8 times the imprisonment rate of White people. This factor reaches as high as 12.5 in New Jersey. Periods of incarceration severely limit one’s ability to earn income after the fact and can even leave individuals in debt. 


Labor Policy: Equity in labor policy improves the quality of jobs and other opportunities to financially insecure communities. Ensuring safe, predictable working conditions and fair hiring might bring more stable jobs to marginalized workers. Ending sub-minimum wages for incarcerated and service workers would boost income for Black, Hispanic, and women workers in particular. 

Benefit Policy: Equity in benefit policy makes programs more accessible to historically excluded groups, widening the safety net’s reach. Disregarding criminal and immigration status to larger degrees may expand program access within marginalized communities. A more robust caregiving system might better support the low-income women of color who disproportionately shoulder these responsibilities. 

Protection Policy: Equity in protection policy limits the ability of lenders and other groups to profit on decisions of financially desperate individuals. Eliminating predatory lending, criminal fines and fees, and other penalties might especially boost security for the Black and Hispanic communities that are often targeted. 

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