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Promoting Shared Prosperity

Overview

Strengthening and expanding the American middle class in order to increase competitiveness and improve quality of life

We live in a time of incredible scientific progress and growing material abundance. In the past decade, nearly 160 million people each year have risen out of extreme poverty to join the global middle class, driven in large part by China’s staggering economic growth. Going forward, breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics promise to dramatically increase standards of living, while innovations in the sciences and medicine offer the hope of a world without poverty, disease, and famine. The data are clear — on nearly every metric, the intersection of science, technology and society is making life better around the globe.

However, it has not gotten better for everyone.

Too many Americans today are excluded from the tech-driven economic growth of the past three decades, reducing overall competitiveness and shrinking the middle class. From 1970 to 2014, middle income households fell from 58% to 47%. The hollowing out of the middle class threatens U.S. competitiveness as consumption — the engine of the economy — slows down. At the same time, the traditional idea of the American Dream — the possibility for children to have a better life than their parents — has been slipping away. In 1970, 92% of 30 year olds earned more than their parents had at the same age. In 2017, that number had dropped to around 50%. Meanwhile, the income disparity between quartiles has grown, as limited mobility, wage stagnation, and growing inequality have pushed the the rungs on the income ladder further apart.

Globalization and technology have exacerbated these trends for families in lower income brackets. The boom in Chinese manufacturing and imports has eliminated up to 2.4 million jobs in the United States since 2000. During the same time period, automation has eliminated nearly one in ten manufacturing jobs. Families with less income and lower savings are destined to have a harder time dealing with the shocks caused by globalization and technological change, as they struggle to finance expensive retraining or to weather periods of unemployment. The federal government is not doing enough to protect these families; funds for the federal government’s primary workforce-retraining program have been cut by 22 percent since 2009.

Imagine if every American could participate in and benefit from the technological progress of the digital age. We aim to make this dream a reality. We can rebuild and strengthen tomorrow’s middle class — and allow the entire economy to enjoy the potential benefits of technological progress.

Approach

01

Connect people to higher paying jobs

Work has always been a primary source of wealth generation, opportunity, and meaning for Americans. As technology changes the type of employment available, we seek to connect Americans to higher paying jobs through better information, new digital tools, and training that aligns with the demands of the labor market. Reducing the time a person spends unemployed increases their chance of staying in the middle class and avoiding poverty.

02

Help people keep more of the money they earn

If basic costs continue to soar, Americans will struggle to save — for children, for job displacement, or for retirement. Keeping more money in people’s pockets will enable them to build the resilience that their families and communities need to weather disruptions — labor market and otherwise — in the future.

03

Break barriers keeping people out of the labor market

People are excluded from the labor market for numerous reasons — because they have a criminal record, or lack housing, or experience a health crisis. But the unemployment that stems from those barriers is self-reinforcing; the longer a person goes without work, the harder it is to find a job. Barriers eventually become sinkholes. We aim to create a “social safety trampoline” to help Americans bounce back from periods of unemployment or disruption, while removing harmful barriers that prevent long-term stability. In many cases individual barriers — like access to legal and financial services — can be eliminated by simple technology platforms.

Featured Programs

Alliance for the American Dream

Providing access to capital and access to market for new ideas to advance shared prosperity in communities across America.  Learn more

Data for the American Dream

Schmidt Futures’ Data for the American Dream initiative aims to give American workers new digital tools to thrive in our rapidly-changing economy. The initiative will support up to 3 state-level pilots that unlock critical public or private workforce data that enable search, discovery and matching for career and education opportunities. More information can be found in this summary of the program.

Digital Solutions for Poverty Challenges

We are proud to support novel efforts to develop software platforms that solve specific economic mobility challenges. For example, our grantee Upsolve has developed a TurboTax-like platform to help low-income Americans clear crippling debt. Another grantee, ClearMyRecord, has created an automatic expungement tool to help 70 million Americans remove the burden of low-level criminal offenses from their record. For more information on these grantees, see the New York Times’ 2018 Good Tech Awards list.

Service + Tech

Schmidt Futures has teamed up with Service Year Alliance to create Service+Tech, a new initiative to combine national service with computer science training and education. The initiative is based on our shared belief in a new social contract for America designed for the 21st century, with the clear commitment that if you invest in your country, your country will invest in you. Service+Tech seeks to equip a new generation of civic and political leaders with technology skills in order to solve our most pressing social challenges. For more information, visit: https://serviceyear.org/tech/.

  • Alliance for the American Dream

  • Data for the American Dream

  • Digital Solutions for Poverty Challenges

  • Service + Tech