Week of November 8, 2013

This week’s New and Noteworthy highlights new research and findings on ways to encourage savings, measures of poverty in America, and a discussion of financial capability.

  • Some of the mobile apps promoting saving behaviors profiled in this American Banker article could possibly address savings challenges highlighted by FAI’s Julie Siwicki earlier this week.
  • In more savings-related news, FAI co-founder Dean Karlan together with colleagues at CGDEV released a working paper reviewing researching on savings groups and constraints that may hinder the adoption and effective usage of savings products and services by the poor. The SEEP network also released a research review of savings groups, focusing on seven specific RCTs from various countries.
  • In separate but equally compelling reports, Lisa Servon, a professor at The New School and NPR’s Pam Fessler take an investigative, first-hand look “under the hood” of the payday loan industry.
  • Perhaps the most common application of insights from behavioral economics is using defaults – for instance, automatically enrolling people in savings programs unless they opt out. While such defaults may help nudge many people toward savings, those who are motivated enough to opt-out are most likely the people who need help the most. CFED discusses the use of behavioral economic approaches in asset building and points to the need for more nuanced understanding of participants’ motivation and psychology when designing nudges.
  • Nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience at least one year below the official poverty line and 54 percent will spend a year in poverty or near poverty, making poverty a mainstream occurrence, according to Mark Rank of the University of Washington.
  • At FAI, we’ve written a lot about initiatives focused on the ultra-poor like BRAC’s graduation program. Trickle Up outlined why focusing on this subgroup of the BoP is important for development practitioners.
  • While NPR added to the call for new ways to measure poverty in America, The Washington Post featured a report from the United Way of Northern New Jersey that warns of a hidden new economic class – Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed (ALICE).  ALICE individuals live tenuously at the lower end of the middle class and while they are characterized by financial insecurity, they are often not poor enough to qualify for social safety nets.

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