Week of January 31, 2014

This week’s New and Noteworthy includes resources to help distinguish between e-money and Bitcoin, find out more about the US Postal Service’s possible expansion of financial services, and explore the impact of the financial crisis on banking behavior in the US.

  • A new paper from Una Okonkwo Osili and Anna Paulson show that individuals who have experienced a banking crisis are 11 percentage points less likely to use banks in the US than their peers who emigrated from the same country but did not experience a crisis.
  • As Bitcoin gains in popularity, it’s easy to confuse the digital currency with other forms of e-money. CGAP’s new infographic provides a quick reference that contrasts these products.
  • PopTech profiles the Trust Card, a product developed by IPA with support from the Ford Foundation, designed to act as an “un-credit card” – establishing access to affordable credit coupled with debt consolidation and financial counseling with the goal of improving financial stability for cardholders over time.
  • In his annual State of the Union Address, US President Barak Obama advocated raising the federal minimum wage, a topic of recent debate in Washington. The Economic Policy Institute released data showing the value of minimum wage is 23 percent less than its peak inflation-adjusted value in 1968 but low-wage workers are more highly educated than they were in the late sixties.
  • Writer Dylan Love shared his experience with Slate of using an invitation-only, no fee, virtual bank called Simple. Spoiler alert – after two weeks, he swore off brick-and-mortar banks for life.
  • Piggy-backing on the success and rapid growth of M-Pesa, Safaricom now offers a number of additional mobile financial tools like savings tools and ways to pay school fees electronically.  But are these services reaching those who could potentially benefit from them the most?  NextBillion says no - research shows the poor or those in rural areas are currently the least likely to use these add-on products.
  • A new Postal Service Office of Inspector General white paper explores how the U.S. Postal Service could offer a suite of non-bank financial services (in addition to the current money order and transfer services) targeted to serve America’s unbanked populations.

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