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November 26, 2013

New & Noteworthy

By Alicia Brindisi

In this special Holiday (at least in the US) edition of New and Noteworthy, we take a look at the global status of bitcoin, analyze the gender gap in financial inclusion, and observe the intersection of the American military and the payday loan industry.

  • NextBillion has a two-part interview with Ideas42’s Alex Fiorillo. In part I,  “The Power of Choices,” she gives an overview of the principles of behavioral economics. In part II, “People-Centered Finance,” she describes how behavioral economics can be used to design better financial products and promote healthier decisions.
     
  • Coin, a new startup, has begun taking orders for its battery-powered electronic credit card. In essence it can alter its magnetic strip to mimic any of your credit or debit cards so that you only have to carry one card. While slick, it is an innovation for people who are already very well-served by formal financial services. At first glance it appears that the most value would be for people who are juggling lots of credit accounts and carrying 7 or 8 credit cards. What those people need most is likely credit counseling, not an easier way to carry multiple cards.
     
  • New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity officially launched the enrolment phase for a new pilot project called Paycheck Plus, which adds to the annual amount that low-income workers without dependent children receive through the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
     
  • Washington state can add “barrier to access for the unbanked” to the list of issues surrounding the launch of Obamacare.  While plan payment methods include money orders, the first payment must be made by credit card, debit card or electronic funds transfer from a bank account.
     
  • A website called fiatleak has a map drawing information from all the major online bitcoin exchanges, like Mt. Gox and BTC-e, and shows what country’s residents are buying bitcoins in real time. Much of the activity is concentrated in China, a point also noted in a recent New Yorker article on regulation of the digital currency.
  • This Economist article delves deeper into the global gender gap in financial inclusion and what can be done about it. One strategy could be the recent women-only bank launched in India – the first public-sector bank of its kind in the country’s history.
     
  • Nearly seven years since the Military Lending Act came into effect, government authorities say the law has gaps that allow the payday loan industry to target service men and women with potentially negative financial effects.

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