The Rationale

Creating economic opportunity for all.

Ownership Works and our partners recognize the power of shared ownership to help generate benefits for employees, companies, and society at large:

  • Wealth Creation & Economic Resilience. Employee ownership can help address the lack of stock ownership and long-term wealth-building opportunities among low- and moderate-income households, and help families develop greater financial resilience.

  • Racial Equity. By extending ownership opportunities beyond senior management – which historically lacks diversity – to all employees of a company, shared ownership can increase racial equity.

  • Financial Inclusion. When paired with access to financial education and safe and affordable financial services, shared ownership programs can help employees improve their financial know-how and ability to weather economic hardships, offering one avenue to enhance financial capability across America.

  • Employee Engagement. By reinvigorating corporate cultures, shared ownership can help improve employee engagement and elevate worker voice, which can benefit both employee retention and company performance.

Wealth Creation & Economic Resilience

Despite growing prosperity, millions of families in America lack the stability and security that wealth bestows.

The bottom 25% of households have a median net worth of only $500 and a quarter of workers have no money saved for retirement. For employees in the bottom half of the country economically, there’s just not enough in wages to weather a crisis or get ahead.

Employee ownership provides workers with access to one of the most significant pathways to wealth creation: stock ownership. Since 1989, directly held stocks and mutual funds have grown exponentially from $2.06 trillion to just under $40 trillion in 2023. The bottom half of all households owns just over $380 billion (1%) of this wealth. By more broadly distributing access to wealth creation opportunities, employee ownership can help more families build savings to weather financial setbacks and invest in their futures.

U.S. Wealth Distribution Today
Bottom 50% has limited financial security and an uncertain path to retirement.

Change in distribution of directly held stocks and mutual funds
The bottom 50% missed out on the vast majority of wealth created by directly held stocks and mutual funds since 1989.

Racial Equity

Due to generations of exclusion from equal economic opportunity, people of color have not accumulated wealth at the same rate as White families. With respect to stock ownership, Black and Latino households combined own a disproportionately low share of wealth — just $550 billion (1.5%) in directly held stocks and mutual funds. Expanding ownership beyond senior management, which has historically lacked diversity, to all workers, provides more people of color with access to this important pathway to financial opportunity and wealth creation.

The Black-White wealth gap is larger today than in 1983.
Source: Federal Reserve

Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity
According to the 2022 Survey of Consumer Finances, White families have among the highest median and mean net worth, valued at more than that of Black and Hispanic families combined. For example, the median white household owns more than six times the wealth of the median Black household.

Median Net Worth ChartMedian Net Worth Chart

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Distributional Financial Accounts (2023)

Diversity Among Executives and in the Labor Force
Black and Hispanic or Latino employees are underrepresented among executive senior leadership, which is often where employee ownership is concentrated.

Median Net Worth ChartMedian Net Worth Chart
Source: Analysis of American Community Survey data by J.D. Swerzensi, D. Tomaskovic-Devy, and Eric Hoyt. “Where are the Hispanic Executives.” The Conversation. Jan. 22, 2020.

Financial Inclusion

Far too many Americans are financially insecure. As of 2023, nearly 40% of Americans struggle to pay their bills and cannot afford a $400 emergency expense, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Reserve. Additionally, many Americans are ill-prepared to navigate the labyrinth of complicated financial resources and products currently available, making it difficult for them to choose the right resources for their personal financial situation. These obstacles have far-reaching implications for households, impacting everything from credit card debt to retirement savings.

To address this issue, Ownership Works is advancing shared ownership models that include personal financial education, coaching, and access to resources like employee relief funds and employer-sponsored small-dollar loans. By combining these with various ownership structures, we aim to empower employees, helping them make informed financial decisions and enhance their financial wellbeing. Our goal is to ensure every employee-owner has the tools and information needed for long-term wealth creation.

Employee Engagement

68% of workers describe themselves as "not engaged" or "actively disengaged."
Source: Gallup

According to Gallup, for the second year in a row, the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. declined, decreasing from 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021 to just 32% in 2022.

Through employee ownership, companies can replace a culture of apathy with an invigorated culture of ownership. Pairing stock grants with greater communication, transparency, and voice can create the ultimate alignment of interests and engage an entire workforce around a common purpose and strategy. It can also help increase a sense of fairness and equitable treatment, which is a core driver of retention. Employees know their companies best, and when given the opportunity to both contribute to and participate in the success they help create, they can take a company from good to great.

A Resilient Economy

Extending wealth building opportunities to more workers can benefit not only individuals and companies, but also the national economy and society at large.

As indicated in the chart below, wealth inequality has steadily increased over the last three decades. For the millions of employees who live paycheck to paycheck, wages are insufficient to save for hard times let alone invest in assets. In 2020, the median household income was $67,521, a decrease of 2.9% from the 2019 median of $69,560 and the first statistically significant decline in median household income since 2011.

The distribution of earnings and wealth matters – not just a matter of fairness, but also as a matter of economic stability. A broader distribution of earnings and wealth can support economic growth and resilience by increasing families’ spending power and their ability to weather personal financial setbacks and market downturns. Escalating wealth inequality weakens an economy when millions of households live one paycheck away from poverty and large amounts of earnings sit in deposits rather than circulating in the economy through wages and consumer spending.

U.S. Wealth Inequality Is Rising Steadily
The ratio of household wealth held by the top 10th percentile to the remaining (bottom) 90th percentile has been increasing over time and is higher today than when the Federal Reserve began collecting this data in 1989.

Business, like life, is a team sport

No one succeeds on their own. When a company can include all employees in the opportunity to participate in the upside they help generate, we believe the company should.

Learn more about how we help companies


See the difference shared ownership has made for companies and colleagues