Credit Union's Tech Mashup

March 30, 2012
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This week the World Council of Credit Unions released its latest technical guide, “Using Mobile Technology to Expand Financial Inclusion: The Credit Union Experience,” which serves as a helpful perspective on the ways that a variety of technologies are being leveraged to expand financial inclusion. In addition to bringing attention to the important (and all-too-often underappreciated) role that Credit Unions play in banking the unbanked, the report also does a great job of illustrating how a variety of technologies are being used in coordination to further the goal of helping poor households to more safely and cheaply manage their money.

Testimony of Michael Calabrese Before the Subcommittee on Economic Policy of the US Senate Committee on Banking

March 28, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, for this opportunity to testify today. I am a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan policy institute here in Washington. New America’s Asset Building Program develops and incubates innovative policy proposals to enable low- and middle-income families in the U.S. and around the world to accumulate savings, access financial services, develop financial capability, and build and protect productive assets across the life course.

New Podcast: The ‘Youth Voice’ in Youth Savings

March 23, 2012

Originally posted on

Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, 50% of which is comprised of youth. In 2011 YouthSave’s financial institution partner, Kenya Post Office Savings began piloting its YouthSave account, SMATA, across a number of its branches, including one in Kenyatta Market just outside of Kibera. In this podcast, we highlight the youth voice, hearing directly from four exceptional young people living in Kibera, on their savings goals, challenges, and plans for the future. The interviews of youth clients in this podcast provide a snapshot of what saving and having a savings account means to many.

Asset Building News Week, Mar 19-23

March 23, 2012
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on the The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include housing, inequality, banking options, welfare, and jobs.

Financial Inclusion: not an Escalator, maybe a Ladder?

March 22, 2012

Yesterday, CGAP hosted an event to discuss their recently released paper, “Social Cash Transfers and Financial Inclusion: Evidence from Four Countries.” The paper was a follow up to a 2009 paper, “Banking the Poor via G2P Payments,” which argued that the convergence of electronic payments and financial inclusion had the potential to achieve several benefits, such as reducing government costs and introducing recipients to the wider world of financial services.

When the Financial Fringe Takes a Bite Out of Savings

March 19, 2012
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The New York Times ran a piece over the weekend that highlights many of the challenges of the alternative banking sector. As the article explains, low-income consumers may turn to “fringe financial companies — businesses like check cashers, payday lenders and pawnshops that lack conventional checking or savings accounts and frequently charge huge fees and high interest for their services” because they are the only places that these people can get the services they need. As Anne Stuhldreher, a Senior Policy Fellow with New America in California explains in the article, “Without a checking or savings account, you’re basically shut out of most affordable financial services.” Without affordable products, savings opportunities are highly limited and more fundamental opportunities for asset preservation are at risk.

GUEST POST: New Database Provides Economic Security Data for Families Across the Country

March 19, 2012
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Matt Unrath is the Director of the National Family Economic Security Program at Wider Opportunities for Women.

Asset Building News Week, Mar 12-16

March 16, 2012
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on the The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include young adult unemployment, student loan debt, banking products, asset building at tax time, and the racial wealth gap.

"We Don't Do Banks"

  • By
  • Rourke OBrien,
  • New America Foundation
March 15, 2012

When asked whether he or anyone in his household has a bank account, Billy, a 24-year-old out-of-work father of two young daughters quickly retorted, “We don’t do banks.” A recent survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reveals that Billy is not alone—more than 9 million American households are unbanked, meaning they have no checking or savings account.

Pay No Attention to the Facts Behind the Curtain...

March 14, 2012
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) has become a major target this election cycle, largely because of persistent accusations of waste and fraud in its administration. However, it is well documented that SNAP fraud is minimal; furthermore, there is a logical disconnect between the problems defined and the expensive solutions proposed in the name of “efficiency."

The Economic Research Service of the USDA just released a new publication on its website documenting the reasons that participation in SNAP has risen so significantly over the past few years. Unsurprisingly, high rates of unemployment since the recession began are largely to blame; ERS research has shown that since 1980, a 1-percentage-point increase in the national unemployment rate is associated with about 1 to 3 million additional SNAP participants. Another factor is that some of the most burdensome policies put in place by welfare reform—which caused the SNAP caseload to decline 47% between 1996 and 2000—have been lifted or eased over the past decade. Additionally, though participation is up, the average SNAP benefit remains low, even with the Recovery Act boost. In 2010, the average 2.2-person SNAP household had a monthly gross income of $731, net income of $336, and a SNAP benefit of $287.

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