Building the Assets of Low and Moderate Income Workers and their Families: The Role of Employee Ownership - CLEO Skip to main content


In 2015, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation engaged the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing, at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, to conduct a qualitative study examining the asset building impacts of employee ownership for low- and moderate-income employees and their families. Its purpose was to provide insight into the role of employee ownership in supporting employees’ asset/wealth accumulation, and related issues of financial security, economic mobility, and family impact. The research team conducted interviews with long-tenured employees having low-to moderate-incomes at companies with ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans), or having started at their firms with low incomes. This is the largest qualitative, individual interview-based study of this employee population ever conducted in the United States. An ESOP is a retirement plan that invests in stock in the company where the employee works. Typically, companies use credit to purchase stock on behalf of employees with the company repaying the loan and without employees’ purchase of the stock with their wages, savings, or retirement assets. We sought to find employee examples across race, gender, ethnicity, age, sector and geography in the United States. Quantitative data from the U.S. General Social Survey and prior studies were reviewed. This report provides a summary of the overall project and preliminary findings related to the core research question, “Can ESOPs contribute to building the assets of low- and moderate-income employees and if so, how?”