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FAI Researching How Low-Income Americans Use Financial Products [Video]

FAI Researching How Low-Income Americans Use Financial Products [Video]

The Financial Access Initiative (FAI) at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service has launched an important new study to better understand the financial lives of low-income Americans.

FAI, in partnership with Bankable Frontier Associates and The Center for Financial Services Innovation, will track families in four geographic regions in the U.S. over 16 months and collect highly detailed data on household financial activity. The study promises a timely and independent look at how low-income Americans are managing their financial lives. The $3 million project is supported by a grant from the Citi Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

FAI's managing director discusses the launch of the U.S.-centered financial diaries project in this video. The managing director is Jonathan Morduch, professor of public policy and economics at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU.

The "Financial Diaries" methodology employed to conduct this research has been successfully applied in Bangladesh, India and South Africa. The results of that FAI research were detailed in a groundbreaking book Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day (Princeton University Press, 2009). Instrumental in broadening conceptions of global poverty, the book revealed that poor households lead surprisingly active and sophisticated financial lives, driven by the need to cope with irregular and unpredictable incomes but few reliable tools to absorb economic shocks.

"Improving access to reliable, flexible financial products and services is an important step to help poor and low-income households better manage their economic lives," says Professor Morduch. "The Financial Diaries research has proven to be an effective means of gathering important information to inform the design of these kinds of financial tools."

"The findings in Portfolios of the Poor provided an eye-opening look at the financial lives of the poor in other countries, and we're excited to use this lens in the U.S. context," says Brandee McHale, Chief Operating Officer at the Citi Foundation. "This research can fill an important gap in the current data on how low-income families in our own backyards are making ends meet and help reduce the barriers to financial well-being that these families currently face."

In the U.S., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) found that some 17 million adults live in households without any bank accounts. Another 43 million have accounts but are "underbanked," relying on non-bank services such as pay-day lenders and pawn shops. Yet, there is little concrete data about the needs, preferences and use of financial services by low-income families.

"Remarkably, more than 30 million low-income families across the U.S. lack access to traditional banking and financial systems," says Frank DeGiovanni, director of financial assets at the Ford Foundation. "This landmark study will help us to better understand their financial lives, greatly improving the ability the financial industry of nonprofits, and policymakers to meet their needs and increase the quality, affordability, and accessibility of financial services."

To conduct this groundbreaking research, the U.S. Financial Diaries team will spend one-and-a-half years with 300 families, distributed across 4 research sites-in the South, the Northeast, the Midwest and the West. Researchers will meet with families every two weeks to collect highly detailed data on household cash flows.

This methodology of regularly observing household finances over long periods of time allows researchers to identify often-overlooked strategies of financial management, such as the use of informal borrowing and lending with neighbors and family members. The study is designed to capture spending and savings habits that often remain hidden in large surveys. The findings will be published in a series of reports beginning in mid-2012.

 

Featured Case Study: Ellen Schall and the Department of Juvenile Justice

Featured Case Study: Ellen Schall and the Department of Juvenile Justice

When Dean Ellen Schall was appointed commissioner of New York City’s Department of Juvenile Justice, she transformed the troubled agency into one that Harvard University and the Ford Foundation selected to win their prestigious Innovations Award. This iconic case study is featured on Electronic Hallway at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs

FELPS Hosts NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott

FELPS Hosts NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott

NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott addresses NYU Wagner's Fellowship for Emerging Public Service Leaders on April 27, 2011.

Just three weeks into his role as head of the nation's largest public school system, New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott spoke with NYU Wagner's Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service (FELPS) on April 27.

He discussed his career path, including founding a youth mentorship program, heading the National Urban League, and serving as Deputy Mayor of Education and Community Development. Chancellor Walcott also talked about leadership lessons he has learned from these experiences, including the importance of recognizing mentorship moments, the growth that comes from hiring people who will challenge you, and strategies for maintaining work-family balance in public service careers.

For Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Whirlwind Day at Wagner

For Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Whirlwind Day at Wagner

Gordon Brown (r.) enjoys light-hearted moment at Henry Hart Rice Forum with Mitchell Moss.

Gordon Brown, the British Labour Party leader who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from June 2007 to May 2010, and is a current Member of Parliament, spent an engaging day at NYU Wagner on April 11 with groups of students, faculty, alumni, staff, and the dean, Ellen Schall. In the evening, he spoke to more than 150 friends of the public-service graduate school as the guest of the Henry Hart Rice Forum moderated by Mitchell Moss, Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Wagner.

The Right Honourable Mr. Brown projected optimism about globalization. He said vast increases in producers and consumers in fast-developing countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Brazil will benefit the West, as long as the U.S. and Europe invest heavily in science, technology and education and keep the doors of global trade open.

In this way, Mr. Brown argued, the West can ensure it will profit and gain new sources of employment from globalization -- and ease the understandable anxiety so rife today about economic change.

"For the first time last year, in almost 200 years, Europe and America are being out-produced, out manufactured, and out-invested by the rest of the world," he said. "...It makes people insecure; it makes people feel, ‘Are we witnessing the decline of the West?...And then people feel insecure about their jobs."

It is this economic "sea change," which surpasses even that of the Industrial Revolution, that holds the seeds of opportunity for a more balanced global economy, according to the former prime minister.

"The people who are producing goods in China, India, and elsewhere - they don't want just to be workers producing goods; they want to be consumers too," he said.

"They want to enjoy some of benefit of the goods that come with a higher standard of living. They want to be part of the industrial society as middle class consumers of the future," and they want to have "houses, electrical goods, better clothes, higher quality food, health care, and education."

"There is a huge opportunity for us in what is about to happen, because we in America and Europe can be the people who are equipped to sell goods and services that are sold in the rest of the world," added Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown, who has a PhD in History from the University of Edinburg, was introduced by Dean Schall and queried by Professor Moss about his youthful influences (mainly his parents and his school teachers), rapport with U.S. presidents (from Clinton to Bush to Obama), and Scotland's historical impact on the American experiment.

The event was held at the Kimmel Center of New York University. Mr. Brown is the university's inaugural Distinguished Global Leader in Residence.

In his remarks, the former prime minister warned against a "race to the bottom" that will occur if countries are permitted to attract business via deregulation. What is required, he stated, is the development and maintenance of consistent international standards for investment.

Fielding a question from a Wagner student about the environmental impact of burgeoning consumer economies, he said that worldwide treaties, such as the one attempted but not enacted at the recent Copenhagen Climate Summit, are clearly merited .

Foreign Policy Magazine Names Prof. Beth Noveck on Its List of "Top Global Thinkers"

Foreign Policy Magazine Names Prof. Beth Noveck on Its List of "Top Global Thinkers"

NYU Wagner Visiting Professor Beth Noveck is featured in the December issue of Foreign Policy magazine as one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers 2012,” and joins five others at New York University also recognized on the magazine's list -- including: Danah Boyd of Steinhardt, Chen Guangcheng of the School of Law, and, from Stern, Jonathan Haidt, Paul Romer, and Nouriel Roubini.

Professor Noveck’s book, Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful, has been translated into Russian, Arabic and Chinese. According to the Foreign Policy profile: “Open government isn't built in a day, or one presidential term, for that matter. But if the initiatives she [Noveck] has set in motion – from the National Archives dashboard for citizen archivists to the Department of Health and Human Services website for comparing insurance options –are any indication, Noveck has arguably done more than anyone to lay the foundations for a Washington that feels less like a cloistered village and more like an online public square.”

Professor Noveck served in the White House as the first U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer and as founder and director of the White House Open Government Initiative (2009-11). She has served as an advisor to UK Prime Minister David Cameron on how technology can better employ technology in the public sector. She also served on the 2008 Obama-Biden transition team and was a volunteer advisor to the Obama for America campaign on issues of technology, innovation, and government reform.  She focuses her scholarship, activism, and teaching on the future of democracy in the 21st century. Specifically, her work addresses how we can use technology to create more open and collaborative government. With a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, she is collaborating with colleagues to create a research network on the impact of technology on democratic institutions.

She will be a featured guest at a Foreign Policy gala on November 29 in Washington, D.C.

Former British Prime Minister Discusses Globalization in Special Lecture

Former British Prime Minister Discusses Globalization in Special Lecture

The NYU Office of the President welcomed NYU Wagner, Stern, and CAS students to a special lecture with The Right Honourable Gordon Brown MP, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, on September 22 at the Kaufman Management Center at NYU Stern. Mr. Brown led a discussion on developments in globalization.

During his talk, Mr. Brown addressed issues relating to globalization, with a focus on fledgling political movements arrayed against it. He started with the growing tide of secessionist sentiments that have manifested themselves in such countries as Scotland, Belgium, Spain, and Italy. Mr. Brown, who is a native of Scotland, took questions regarding Scotland’s recent vote not to secede from the U.K., and stated that such reactionary responses as xenophobia and protectionism are counterproductive to the pursuit of the global solutions.  

Mr. Brown then emphasized the importance of global cooperation; especially in an era when individual governments are not able to tackle today’s global concerns alone. As an example, he pointed to the UN Climate Change Conference of 2009. He argued that this was the kind of multi-lateral summit needed to address global problems, even though several issues emerged, such as reporting and enforcement challenges, that eventually ensured the conference’s unsuccessful outcome.

He also discussed the global economic recession of 2008, noting that many European countries initially believed the financial crisis would only affect the United States. However, as countries throughout Europe began having similar economic collapses, the realization of an inter-connected economy quickly emerged. This led to another global and multi-lateral approach as the G20 was created to address these economic issues. Unfortunately, Mr. Brown pointed out, global cooperation faded later that year and these types of economic calamities were soon labeled as a Greek crisis or an Ireland crisis.

The former prime minister closed by stating that without serious global leadership and multi-lateral cooperation, perennial crises such as child trafficking, global poverty, and global epidemics will continue to endanger our future. He emphasized that it is imperative that we reform our global institutions, inform public opinion on the positives of globalization, and encourage political leaders to focus on important issues through a global, not a national lens. Only then, he said, will we begin to see true positive change for global challenges.

Author: Jayson W. Browder (Global Executive MPA, 2015), is an Air Force and Iraq Veteran and U.S. Fulbright Scholar (Turkey)

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