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The Ladder

A Blog from New America's Asset Building Program

Asset Building News Week, August 6 - 10

Published:  August 10, 2012
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on 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 financial capability, measuring poverty, and welfare.

Financial Capability

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke this week about the importance of financial education not only in individual monetary security, but national economic growth. He stated, “Consumers who can make informed decisions about financial products and services not only serve their own best interests, but, collectively, they also help promote broader economic stability.”
Also, check out the Q & A with Washington state superintendent of public instruction Randy Dorn, who argues that practical financial education skills should be valued alongside mathematics, and should begin to enter curriculum in late grade school when students first begin to understand “the value of and need for money.”
Measuring Poverty
A new study by economists James Sullivan (University of Notre Dame) and Bruce Meyer (University of Chicago) suggests that poverty measurements currently used by the United States Census Bureau are inaccurate. Instead of looking at pretax monetary income,  they argue that “looking at what people consume — the housing, food and other goods they are able to enjoy — provides a more accurate indicator of who is struggling to make ends meet.” Current poverty measurements also do not take into account wealth accumulation, access to credit, or homeownership.
A variety of education pilot programs, reviewed by the Huffington post here, indicate that addressing poverty within the classroom results in student success. These programs included a variety of strategies which addressed student’s emotional and social (not just educational) needs and created an environment balanced with positivity and discipline. These findings provide a promising framework for future programs which utilize education as a tool with which to combat poverty.
Since the 1996 welfare reform, the number of people in America receiving cash assistance has fallen by 8 million. This extreme drop in government assistance has taken place alongside the recession, which has led many to believe that the TANF program is not adequately addressing the needs of the low-income Americans. CNNMoney reviews the changes that have taken place in the program since 1996 and possible policy directions for the future. Jordan Weissmann for The Atlantic says that the real problem with welfare is that it has stopped serving the poor effectively.
Despite the steadily increasing popularity of farmers’ markets in the United States, many do not provide access to low-income customers utilizing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments. While this change might come at a cost to market operators, it also has large potential to open up untapped revenue for these small marketplaces while providing many with more nutritious food options.
A new study finds that poverty and welfare are common among immigrants, even after having lived in the United States for a longer period of time. The study looks at both legal and illegal immigrant information, and finds that immigration “has dramatically increased the size of the nation's low-income population.” In terms of entrepreneurship, native-born Americans and immigrants perform at equal levels. These findings reflect a dynamically changing America which will require innovative policy solutions moving forward.
Quick Hits
We’re reviewing applications for fall interns at the graduate and undergraduate level. Details here.
Two upcoming webinars of interest to people in the asset building world: the first, sponspored by Half in Ten, will look at poverty reduction in concert with deficit reduction. The second, sponsored by the Shrive Center, Mobile Banking: Can the Unbanked Bank On It? Will look at the potential for mobile banking technology to serve lower-income markets.

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