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The Ladder

A Blog from New America's Asset Building Program

Asset Building News Week for June 10-14

Published:  June 14, 2013
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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 racial inequality, retirement, food security, and financial services.

Racial Inequality

The Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report this week on racial housing discrimination that found a stubborn persistence of subtle forms of discrimination. The New York Times and the Asset Building Program’s Hannah Emple summarized the report’s main findings. Although more blatant forms of discrimination like door-slamming are less common, less overt forms remain all too common. And while housing remains an obstacle for racial equality, health and wealth inequality is likely to rise in states that turn down the federal Medicaid expansion, according to Christopher Flavelle in an editorial for Bloomberg. Black and Hispanic Americans are already less likely to be insured, he reports, and in many states that oppose the take-up of the expansion, those groups make up a large portion of the population that would benefit from the expansion. The decision not to accept the expansion is particularly harmful because, as reported by NPR, African-Americans remain hardest hit by medical bills. Meanwhile, the education system is doing little to alleviate racial inequality, as Salon reports that for-profit colleges are “preying” on African-Americans more than other groups by saddling ambitious young students with huge debts—and sometimes failing to provide an education of a quality commensurate with its costs.


People ages 38 to 47 are “on track to be the first generation to do worse in retirement than their parents,” according to NPR. Still, in a contrary though still depressing finding, Wall Street Journal reports that people of retirement age (over 65) have only 57 percent of the average income of people aged 45 to 65. Financial planners often recommend an income in retirement of at least 70 percent of one’s working income, which seems to be far out of reach for many currently in their retired years. Part of the reason for so many Americans’ underestimating the required amount of retirement savings may come from what Helaine Olen calls “the million dollar myth,” which she defined this week in The Guardian as the now-discredited conventional wisdom that that amount could provide for a secure retirement. One strategy for ensuring a secure retirement may be simply to delay it, thereby increasing Social Security receipts and building greater assets, all of which, according to Time, may actually have health benefits as well. Adults who delay retirement appear to have better health outcomes and report lower levels of depression and loneliness.

Food Security

A new tool from the charity group Feeding America provides a map-based representation of food insecurity rates across the country. The child food insecurity rates are especially astounding: the information reveals that almost a third of children are food insecure in states like New Mexico. Some small but promising programs exist around the country to help low-income families avoid this condition of food insecurity and maintain access to quality food. A farmers’ market program that serves low-income families is expanding in Tarrant County, Texas (Fort Worth). Families can use their WIC cards (the benefit delivery system for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) to purchase quality foods from local farmers. Elsewhere, in places like Lincoln, Nebraska, efforts are underway to encourage families to use SNAP benefits (food stamps) at farmers’ markets instead of supermarkets.

Financial Services

A bill is advancing in the Pennsylvania legislature that would legalize payday loans in a state that has had an effective ban of the predatory lending practices in place for years. This development comes as many other states are moving in the opposite, more positive direction of banning payday loans where they have previously been legal.

Janet Murguía, the president of the Latino rights organization the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post in which she made the case that banking the large unbanked Latino population would not only be good for Latinos, but also for the financial industry. Murguía wrote the piece as a follow-up to an event sponsored by NCLR last week on improving financial inclusion among the Latino immigrant community. The Asset Building Program’s Hannah Emple also gave her reactions to the event.

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