Finance

The 2013 Federal Budget's Impact on Communities of Color and Low-Income Families

The 2013 Federal Budget's Impact on Communities of Color and Low-Income Families

Women of Color Policy Network
02/23/2012

The Obama administration's budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 (FY 2013) strengthens the national economy by investing in schools, communities and safety net programs. The FY 2013 budget also includes a number of important investments in infrastructure that will spur much needed job growth in a time of economic uncertainty for many working and low-income families. It is critical that such investments take into account the persistently high unemployment in communities of color, and target spending to increase the economic security of the communities most impacted by the "Great Recession." Additionally, the budget includes important changes to the tax code that will lay the foundation for a fairer and more equitable economy.

Process, Responsibility, and Myron's Law

Process, Responsibility, and Myron's Law
Chapter 12 (p. 111-23), in In the Wake of the Crisis: Leading Economists Reassess Economic Policy, Olivier J. Blanchard, David Romer, A. Michael Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz (eds.) Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012.

Paul Romer
02/01/2012

In the wake of the financial crisis, any rethinking of macroeconomics has to include an examination of the rules that govern the financial system. This examination needs to take a broad view that considers the ongoing dynamics of those rules. It will not be enough to come up with a new set of specific rules that seem to work for the moment. We need a system in which the specific rules in force at any point in time evolve to keep up with a rapidly changing world.

A diverse set of examples suggests that there are workable alternatives to the legalistic, process-oriented approach that characterizes the current financial regulatory system in the United States. These alternatives give individuals responsibility for making decisions and hold them accountable. In this sense, the choice is not really between legalistic and principlebased regulation. Instead, it is between process and responsibility

Notre façon de voir la pauvreté [How we see poverty]

Notre façon de voir la pauvreté [How we see poverty]
FACTS, Special Issue 4 (Lutte contre la pauvreté), January 2012: 14-19.

Jonathan Morduch
01/01/2012

How we think about poverty is colored by how we measure it. For economists, that often means seeing poverty through quantities measured in large, representative surveys. The surveys give a comprehensive view, but favor breadth over depth. Typical economic surveys are limited in their ability to tease out informal activity, and, while they capture yearly sums, they offer little about how the year was actually lived by families. Year-long financial diaries provide a complementary way of seeing poverty, with a focus on week by week choices and challenges. The result is a re-framing of poverty and its relationship to money, calling for greater attention to financial access and a broader notion of how finance matters.

A Canary in the Mortgage Market? Why the recent FHA and GSE loan limit reductions deserve attention

A Canary in the Mortgage Market? Why the recent FHA and GSE loan limit reductions deserve attention
Furman Center White Paper

Madar, J. & Willis, M.A.
10/01/2011

On October 1, 2011, the maximum loan size eligible for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance or a guarantee from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (known as "Government-Sponsored Enterprises" or "GSEs") dropped in dozens of metropolitan areas around the country. When this change took effect, a segment of the mortgage market in each of these areas instantly lost some or all federal backing. If enough borrowers seeking loans in this segment are unable to find financing, the result will be further downward pressure on the corresponding segment of the housing market. In this report, we use recent mortgage origination data to explore some of the possible implications of this policy change for the housing market and the U.S. mortgage finance system.

Not so Fast: The Realities of Impact Investing

Not so Fast: The Realities of Impact Investing
America's Quarterly

Jonathan Morduch
09/01/2011

At the beginning of 2010, the Indian microfinance sector was a hotspot for impact investors. The promise of impact investing could be seen in the number of investors lining up to participate in the IPO of SKS Microfinance. 

SKS had ballooned from 603,000 borrowers in fiscal year 2007 to 6.8 million in fiscal year 2010.  Most were women in South Indian villages. The founder of SKS, Vikram Akula, had been saluted by Time and the World Economic Forum, and his Harvard-published memoir told the story of an “unexpected quest to end poverty through profitability.” 

But by 2011, the Indian microfinance sector was mired in bad press and political controversy.  Newspapers accused lenders of putting poor villagers in debt and causing suicides. State-level legislation in late 2010 capped interest rates and scared away equity investors.  Borrowers ceased to repay, and SKS’s share price plummeted, dipping below 200 rupees in late August 2011 (from an IPO price of 985 rupees in August 2010). As summer 2011 ended, BASIX—a pioneering competitor of SKS-- very publicly searched for funding to stay afloat.

Both the achievements and challenges in India hold lessons for impact investors. 

Impact investing has been widely touted, with microfinance as a leading example.  The temptation to attract capital by promising macro-impact at a micro-cost is difficult to resist—and India continues to be one of the most important and innovative microfinance markets. But getting the equation right is more complicated than most advocates admit.

Here are seven lessons on challenges, risks and realities drawn from three decades of microfinance ups and downs.

2011 Federal Policy Review

2011 Federal Policy Review
Published by the Women of Color Policy Network, August 2011.

Women of Color Policy Network
08/01/2011

This summary of legislative action pertinent to the Network's federal policy priorities assesses how noteworthy acts and trends in Congress affect the lives of women of color, their families, and communities. Covering the areas of economic security, social equity, and immigration, the brief provides updates on the status of reproductive rights, job creation, safety net programs, and the DREAM Act, among other topics. The Network's assessment of the policy implications indicates that although the federal legislative landscape offers some progressive opportunities for women of color, obstacles to their advancement loom large amongst ongoing budget and deficit reduction negotiations.

Why Finance Matters

Why Finance Matters
Science, vol. 332, 10 June 2011: 1271-1272.

Jonathan Morduch
06/01/2011

Roughly one-half of the world’s adults, about 2.5 billion people, have neither a bank account nor access to semiformal financial services such as “microcredit,” the growing practice in developing nations of providing small loans, typically less than US$500, to self-employed people. But what if they did? Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, a pioneering microcredit institution, argues that this lack of financial access means that the poor, especially poor women, can’t obtain the loans they need to build their businesses and get on a path out of poverty. The idea has taken hold: In 2009, for instance, Grameen Bank served 8 million customers; its average loan balance was just $127. Worldwide, microcredit advocates now claim more than 190 million customers. Proof of concept, however, is not proof of impact. Recent studies have found that some efforts to provide small loans have produced surprisingly weak results, and in this issue, Karlan and Zinman provide more evidence that we need to rethink microcredit. Their findings, from a randomized evaluation of microcredit lending in the Philippines, adds to a handful of recent results that suggest that microcredit’s effectiveness has been overstated by studies that selectively focus on success stories.

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