CFED: Financial Products for Immigrants & Communities of Color
November 15, 2013 09:29 AM
By Emanuel Nieves; cross-posted from CFED.org with permission.
Last week, the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) hosted its annual Fall Research Conference in Washington, DC. For the past four years, APPAM has included a number of panels, roundtables and other sessions that highlight new asset-based research, all of which have played a role in informing the work of the asset-building field. Organized and promoted by the Building Wealth over a Lifetime Working Group, this year’s APPAM conference included fourteen such sessions, one of which was a session I attended on Saturday titled Access to Financial Products and Services for Immigrants & Communities of Color.
The session featured both private and public sector panelists, including Sandy Fernandez of Citi Community Development, Jeffrey Cruz of the Office of Senator Elizabeth A. Warren, Lindsay Daniels of National Council of La Raza, Kathryn Glynn-Broderick of the New York City Office of Financial Empowerment and Kevin Sanada of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development. These dynamic speakers came together to discuss how immigrants and communities of color were using and perceiving financial products and services post-recession.
Broadly, the research presented showed that most surveyed communities are actively using mainstream financial services and products, but the extent to which each does varies. Specifically, the NYC Office of Financial Empowerment found that among the three communities surveyed—Mexican, Ecuadorian and Chinese—the Chinese community had a much higher rate of being banked (95%) compared to the others surveyed (43% and 65%, respectively), which is even more surprising given they had been in the country for an average of four fewer years compared with the others. While not as dramatic, these data also showed up in the NCLR/CAPACD presentation; their research found that 90% of Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) respondents had a bank account, compared with 75% for Latino respondents.
Various factors all played a role in the use of these services for surveyed communities, including location, convenience, fees and perception, but the one takeaway that I found interesting is that for these communities, trust is a major factor in how they go about using financial products. In NYC’s study, a third of Mexican and Ecuadorian respondents cited that they chose to open an account only after an explanation by a friend or relative. In NCLR/CAPACD’s survey, 50% of Latino and 40% of AAPI respondents cited that they would turn to a friend or family member first in the event they needed emergency funds before turning to other sources, such as a pawn shop (13% of Latino respondents, 2% of AAPI respondents), auto title loan (9%, 2%) or payday lender (8%, 2%).
Overall, the session showed that while immigrants and communities of color are using mainstream financial products and services, more can and should be done to bridge the gap that remains. Fortunately, each of the organizations represented during the session are doing innovative work to bridge this gap by gleaning a deeper understanding of unmet community needs.