AEO Launches 1 in 3 Campaign
By Kim Pate on 05/02/2012 @ 03:15 PM
As part of its 1 in 3 Campaign, the Association for Enterprise Opportunity has unveiled a new report at its annual conference further proving it’s proposition that, “If one in three microenterprises hired just one employee, the U.S. economy would reach full employment.”
In addition, the report concludes “If demand for microenterprise-intensive services and products was met locally in communities around the United States, we could create 10-16 million new jobs.” That’s based, the report says, on a survey of business owners who identified the local consumption impact on the 20 most microenterprise-intense industry sectors. That’s the key: people must start buying from the mom-and-pop shops.
This aligns with CFED’s Self-Employment Tax Initiative (SETI), funded by Sam’s Club Giving Campaign because SETI supports the notion that state and local governments can facilitate job creation by providing federal tax preparation assistance to new businesses and the self-employed.
Addressing the Economic Needs of Low-Income Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
By Inemesit Imoh on 05/01/2012 @ 03:30 PM
On May 1, 2009, President Barack Obama proclaimed the month of May as Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In a similar vein to African-American History Month, the President wants the United States to come together to recognize and celebrate the rich diversity of languages, religions and cultural traditions of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders that continues to shape American culture and society.
Since the first Asian-American and Pacific Islander immigrants arrived over 150 years ago to those who arrive today, there are now over 17.3 million U.S. residents of Asian descent living in the United States, or 5.6 percent of the total population. This population is also the fastest-growing population in the United States today, growing 46% between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. Addressing the needs of a quickly increasing population of Americans is important for lawmakers; however, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) populations are often the last demographic that many consider in relation to poverty.
AAPI households are often stereotyped as “successful” minorities who have achieved the American Dream, who earn higher wages and who are not dependent on government assistance as a result. This is a generalized and overly simplistic view of AAPI households, which neglects to examine the complexities and differences within the population. While it is true that the AAPI population as a whole is economically better off than African-American or Hispanic populations (in 2009, Asian households had the highest median household incomes among race groups at $65,469 and had the lowest poverty rate among race groups at 12.5%), there are great discrepancies between Asian groups that are rarely addressed.
- Cambodian, Vietnamese, Hmong and Laotian workers were most likely to work in low-wage industries (e.g. production, transportation and material moving), according to 2000 Census data.
- The incomes of these groups were substantially lower than the median for all Asian families. The median incomes of Hmong and Cambodian families were the lowest of all Asian groups ($32,400 and $35,600, respectively).
- While Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Indian and Korean households had a higher high school graduation rate compared with the national average, Vietnamese, Laotian, Hmong and Cambodian individuals had graduation rates that were substantially lower. For example, Japanese high school graduation rates were 91.4%, compared with Hmong rates of 40.7%.
AAPI households are not a monolith. Lawmakers and advocates should be promoting and encouraging efforts to address the needs of low-income groups and populations, while recognizing that America is a diverse nation comprised of groups that have different but specific needs. CFED supports asset-building policies that would benefit all American households, including AAPI households.
- Retirement security policies would greatly benefit AAPI seniors. Many Asian seniors are foreign-born, linguistically isolated, have little education and have poverty rates higher than the national average for all seniors. Policies like Automatic IRA would allow younger Asians and Pacific Islanders to save towards their financial security in their later years and increase the economic security of households shared by adult children and their elderly parents.
- Policies that encourage families to save for higher education would also greatly benefit low-income AAPI households. Research has found that having a savings account significantly improves the likelihood of students attending college. Reforming asset tests to allow for families to save in vehicles like 529 College Savings Accounts, Coverdell ESAs or Individual Development Accounts would allow students to plan and save for their academic futures and, as a result, their economic mobility.
The economic security of low-income, minority households will continue to be an increasingly important issue as the demographics of the United States change and evolve. Policies and programs must be put in place to help these families move up and out of poverty as it is imperative to the long-term economic stability and growth of the country. Honest and open discussions about the individual needs of different groups in America will help advocates, lawmakers, researchers and communities craft the necessary tools and strategies to carry out that mission.
Reminder: Deadline for Call for Research for the 2012 ALC is THIS Monday, April 30!
By Michelle Nguyen on 04/28/2012 @ 12:30 AM
Abstract submissions for the research forum at the 2012 ALC are due this coming Monday, April 30!
Papers will be presented at “Ideas Into Action: An Applied Research Forum for the Assets Field” at CFED’s 2012 Assets Learning Conference (ALC) on September 19-21, 2012 in Washington, DC. We are welcoming empirical, applied evaluation and policy research papers broadly related to asset building, financial inclusion and capability, household and consumer finances, and economic mobility issues.
Please submit a detailed abstract (1,000 words) for consideration by this Monday, April 30, 2012 to email@example.com. For direct questions, please email Kasey Wiedrich (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Michelle Nguyen (email@example.com).
For the full announcement, please click here.
We’re looking forward to hearing about your research!
Aspen Asks: Can America’s Small Businesses Deliver Growth and Financial Security?
By Lauren Williams on 04/26/2012 @ 01:30 PM
Small business defines American economic growth. CFED certainly believes that it can help families build financial security and Karen Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, agrees.
At an event on April 12 hosted by the Aspen Institute as part of the “Building the Economy We Want: Aspen Asks What Will it Take?” series, Administrator Mills was interviewed by Jared Sandberg, Editor of Bloomberg.com about what is needed to make small business a robust engine of development for jobs that offer financial security for workers. Though many would argue that the SBA has a long way to go in order to better fulfill the needs of really small businesses—or microenterprises—she shared several encouraging insights regarding SBA’s commitment to small business development:
- What is the role of small business in that process and how is SBA supporting that role? Small business is, without question, the job creating engine of the American economy. Of the more than 27 million businesses in the United State, 99.9% are defined as small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. According to the Kauffman Foundation, without business startups, there would be no net job growth in the United States economy. The Recovery Act allowed SBA to increase its maximum guarantee on 7(a) loans to 90%, which was intended to reduce lender risk and encourage them to offer more and larger loans to small business owners. Administrator Mills argues that we are now in a recovery of substance fueled by entrepreneurship, regional cluster building and innovation.
- What about access to capital? Why are banks so averse to actually banking? What is SBA doing to improve access to capital? Early on in this most recent financial crisis, banks pulled back on their small business lending activity in order to avoid risk and some simply didn’t have enough capital to lend. Even after the Recovery Act attempted to lessen the risk to lenders of conducting business, access to capital has remained constrained in the American economy. Additionally, some argue that it simply costs banks too much to make small dollar loans for it to be profitable, which creates challenges for microenterprises seeking small amounts of capital in particular. SBA has tried to resolve some of the cost burden on banks making SBA 7(a) loans, minimize duplication and allow for quicker turnaround by reducing the number of pages of the SBA loan application from 46 to 8.
- Many sources of personal wealth and resources of low- and moderate-income families were depleted during the recession. How do we build that wealth back? The Administrator didn’t offer up any specific methods for helping families build wealth that was depleted during the recession, but did highlight the central significance of home equity in many of the communities hardest hit by the financial crisis, and encouraged the importance of a more inclusive vision of entrepreneurship going forward.
When it comes to helping families build personal wealth, CFED is rich with ideas. We know that achieving household financial security is a dynamic process in which families iteratively gain skills, increase income, begin to save, leverage savings into assets and protect gains made along the way. We know that families’ ability to build assets depends greatly on the quality of their access to public benefits, tax credits, quality job opportunities, affordable basic goods and services, debt reduction, low-cost financial products, public incentives and consumer protections. We also know that small business ownership, often starting with self-employment, is one way that many low- and moderate-income families create their own jobs and that policymakers and federal agencies that support small business are integral in developing a framework to support those families along the way.
A Decade of Progress on Asset Limits is at Risk
By Inemesit Imoh on 04/25/2012 @ 11:30 AM
House Agriculture Committee votes to cut Food Assistance Program and require states to reinstate asset tests
On Wednesday, April 18, the House Agriculture Committee voted to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) by more than $33 billion over ten years. If the Committee’s proposal is approved by the full House and eventually becomes law, this devastating cut would reduce benefits for all recipients and would force states to reinstate asset tests. Millions of low-income families would once again have to choose between saving for the future and putting food on the table today.
The Committee’s proposal would reduce benefits for all recipients and require states to reinstate asset tests for SNAP by eliminating Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility. Under this policy, households are automatically eligible for SNAP if they receive non-cash Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, formerly called welfare) or maintenance of effort (MOE) funded benefit or service, such as an informational pamphlet. Since this policy has been implemented, approximately 40 states have used this option to waive the asset test for SNAP applicants, allowing millions of low-income families to build the savings they need to successfully lift themselves out of poverty.
The House Agriculture Committee proposes to roll back these reforms, add an unnecessary administrative burden to the states by requiring them to process additional applications, and undermine millions of families’ efforts to build their financial security and self-sufficiency. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the proposal would cut off SNAP assistance for two to three million low-income Americans, including children, seniors and people with disabilities, beginning in 2013.
Savings and assets are the foundations for a strong middle class. Everyone agrees that the long-term economic security of the nation should be a priority for members of Congress, but lawmakers should not punish families working to build investments for themselves or their families while struggling to make it out of poverty.
Congress should protect, not eliminate, policies such as Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility that allow low-income families to save and build wealth. The full House of Representatives will debate the Committee’s legislation in May and the Senate Agriculture Committee has already started discussions for their own version of the proposal.
Your lawmakers need to hear from you about how important Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility is for families that are striving to improve their financial security! Our advocacy center currently features an action alert with template messages to your Representative and Senators. CFED will be following this issue, keeping you up to date, and providing the resources you need to reach out to your legislators in opposition to these cuts. Please join our efforts to protect asset-building opportunities.
Teach Children to Save Day 2012
By Ethan Geiling on 04/24/2012 @ 10:30 AM
More than one in four children – and roughly two in five minority children – are born into families with negligible savings to weather emergencies or invest in their futures. According to the 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, 35% of households with children (an estimated 12 million households) are asset poor, while 50% of households with children (an estimated 17 million households) are liquid asset poor. Research has shown that poor financial habits are passed on from parent to child; from generation to generation. Sadly, these are the financial lessons that many of our children are learning.
Teaching children the fundamentals of financial education early in life means that they will have a chance to build healthy financial habits and enjoy financial success later on in life. Saving and building assets in the earliest years can promote educational attainment and create a sense of hope for the future.
In 2003, CFED and a group of partners launched the Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship and Downpayment (SEED) Initiative, a multi-year endeavor that developed, tested, and implemented matched savings accounts and financial education for more than 1,300 low-income children and youth across the country. On average, children in SEED accumulated more than $1,500 in savings during the course of the demonstration. SEED generated a substantial body of learning, research and lessons from practical experience that are already playing an invaluable role in efforts to expand savings and asset-building opportunities to millions more children nationwide.
Within the past couple of years, additional research from the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis has come out showing the incredible power of children’s savings:
- Controlling for other factors – including household income and children’s academic achievement – children with savings dedicated for college education are four times more likely to attend college. (Elliot and Beverly, 2010)
- Children’s savings accounts are strong predictors of college matriculation. Among youth who expect to attend college, youth with a savings account in their names are about six times more likely to actually attend. (Elliot and Beverly, 2010)
- Savings and other financial assets are a consistent predictor of college graduation, even after controlling for variables such as income. (Zhan and Sherraden, 2009)
Today is the 16th anniversary of Teach Children to Save Day, a national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of encouraging lifelong savings habits to young people. Teaching children good financial habits early on and providing an account to make these lessons real opens doors to new possibilities. Children will be free to dream big. Better, they will have the means to begin pursuing their dreams
New Federal Funding Available for CDCs to Create Jobs and Combat ‘Food Deserts’
By Jimmy Crowell on 04/24/2012 @ 09:45 AM
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Community and Economic Development (CED) program announced that they will be providing $27 million (up to $800,000 per project) in grants to community development corporations (CDCs) for projects that create jobs and business development opportunities for low-income individuals. Through this grant, the CED program aims to create new employment opportunities for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients and individuals living on incomes at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level.
The CED program, in coordination with the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), will also provide up to $10 million for CDCs working to increase access to affordable and healthy foods in low-income communities. HFFI was created by the Obama administration in early 2010 to combat the growing number of food deserts, or communities with little access to fresh, healthy foods, in America. This funding from the CED program is designed to enable CDCs to develop food retail outlets and enhance healthy food infrastructures in low-income communities.
Applications for the CED program are due June 5, 2012 and can be submitted electronically here. We hope our partners in the field will be able to take advantage of this new funding opportunity!
Community Investing: Understanding CRA and Community Development
By Jimmy Crowell on 04/23/2012 @ 05:30 PM
Next week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, in partnership with the Office of the Comptroller of Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, will host a forum on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and how it relates to community development.
The CRA was enacted by Congress in 1977 and was designed to address discriminatory lending policies of financial institutions. Through CRA, financial institutions are now encouraged to provide credit and loans in low and moderate-income neighborhoods. The forum, which will take place on Wednesday, May 2 from 9 AM to 2 PM, will address how the CRA has changed since its birth and how it relates to financial institutions, community-based organizations and nonprofits today.
The forum will highlight case studies that demonstrate effective partnerships between financial institutions and nonprofits. There will also be sessions specifically designed for financial institution compliance officers and nonprofits working in the community development field.
If you’re interested in attending, the forum will be held free of charge at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond at 701 East Byrd Street, Richmond VA 23219. Please register here.
Why Do Half of Households Pay No Federal Income Tax?
By Michelle Nguyen on 04/20/2012 @ 06:00 PM
The conclusion of tax week mostly brings the nation a collective sigh of relief, but it is also a good time to dispel common myths about our federal tax system.
An oft-cited statistic is that 51 percent of households paid no federal income tax in 2009, and this figure is sometimes used as evidence that low- and moderate-income families do not pay enough taxes. If we take a closer look though, we can unpack this statistic for a better understanding of the real story.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) helps us do this in a recently updated report. While it is true that 51 percent of households paid no federal income tax in 2009 and that that number dropped to 46 percent in 2011, what does it mean that nearly half the country does not pay federal income tax?
Right off the bat, it is important to understand that these figures refer only to the federal income tax and NOT all federal taxes. Other significant types of federal taxes are unaccounted for in those figures, such as the payroll tax. When calculating the percent of households who do not pay any federal income tax or payroll tax in 2009, the numbers come out to only 17 percent, which is a huge drop from 51 percent. During normal economic times, this figure decreases to 14 percent, for reasons I explain below. Furthermore, these percentages do not even include state and local taxes that households pay, which brings to mind a blog post that fellow CFEDer Ethan Geiling wrote about regressive state tax systems and the disproportionate tax burden that the poorest 20% pay relative to wealthiest 1%. This data can also be found in the 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard.
Moreover, the percentage of households that don’t pay federal income taxes drops to about 40 percent in normal economic times. The 51 percent and 46 percent figures are simply an indication that, during a recession, there are more households with low or no income. Moreover, these numbers reflect policy changes at the time that relieved a family’s tax burden during the economic downturn, such as the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, and these temporary tax measures have since expired.
I hope this post helps shed some light on an often misunderstood issue. For more information about who these households are and the full CBPP report, read it here.
"It is Little by Little Before the Bird Builds its Nest": My Pathway to Asset Building
By Inemesit Imoh on 04/20/2012 @ 12:30 PM
Two years ago, when I saw a job opening at CFED, the decision apply was an easy one. As the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, I have first-hand understanding of the value of asset building. My parents both came to this country with virtually no money at all. My father likes to remind me that he arrived with just $125 to his name; in fact, he keeps the receipt for his $125 traveler’s check framed on the wall of our home in South Carolina. Even after they married each other, and had three lovely children if I do say so myself, my parents had a difficult time getting by. They faced many of the same barriers as other low-income and immigrant families, from working low-wage jobs to lack of access to safe and affordable financial products.
Today, my parents live comfortably as members of the American middle class. They are proud homeowners and have high-skill jobs, but our family endured more than 15 years of poverty to get here. When I ask them how they were able to achieve so much, they remind me of the values they have drilled into me for my entire life:
- Higher Education: My parents, since day one of their arrival in the States, knew that in order for them to move up the economic ladder, they had to earn college degrees. College degrees increased their earning potential and access to higher-wage jobs that offered benefits. Even when money was tight, education was their top priority and they never lost sight of that.
- Savings: My parents owned credit cards but refused to rely on them. They knew that nearly every dollar they earned had to go to food, housing and school and preferred that their discretionary income went to savings instead of credit card repayments. Their savings, sometimes rather small, helped them weather bouts of unemployment, pay for unexpected bills and cover emergencies before they became financial crises.
Asset building is a relatively new term, coined by Professor Michael Sherraden in 1991, but the concept is well understood and appreciated across the globe. My parents themselves think of asset building as simply “investing in the future.” Regardless of what one may call it, asset building is a universal concept and in my case, it was passed down through the generations. My parents understood and valued the importance of asset building because that message was passed on to them from their own families. My paternal grandfather was educated up to fourth grade, but he always encouraged his children to pursue higher education for that was “the education of the future.” My maternal grandmother never went to school and spent most of her adult life working in the community farm, but she always taught her children the value of saving what little money you earned “…in case of emergencies.”
That’s why I came to CFED to work as the Federal Policy Associate. I wanted to work to with legislators, regulators and agency officials to expand asset-building policies and programs for all Americans, so that my family’s success story is one that all families can achieve.
Webinar: New Toolkit for Developing Partnerships Between Domestic Violence Agencies and Asset-Building Organizations
By Lauren Stebbins on 04/19/2012 @ 10:30 AM
Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 2:00-3:30 P.M. (E.D.T)
to be repeated on Thursday, May 17, 2012, 2:00-3:30 P.M. (E.D.T)
Together, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, Division of Family Violence Prevention and the Office of Community Services, Assets for Independence Program (AFI) announce a new toolkit to help increase the number of partnerships between domestic violence and asset-building agencies. This toolkit will train both communities about the financial needs of domestic violence survivors and how best to tailor asset-building services to meet those needs.
The toolkit has been developed to provide step-by-step guidance to bring partnerships with asset building specialist and domestic violence advocates from concept to reality.
Economic dependence and lack of economic options are the main reasons that victims stay with or return to an abusive partner. Over the past several years, domestic violence (DV) agencies and asset-building organizations have begun working together to build the economic capacity of survivors.
In this session you will hear from AFI programs and DV agencies in the field that have developed different models for partnering (in Kentucky and in El Paso, TX), and learn from toolkit authors about the valuable guidance and resources that the toolkit offers. More detailed information on presenters and resource materials will be forwarded prior to the webinar to all who have registered.
Top Five Reasons to Register for ALC 2012
By Sean Luechtefeld on 04/18/2012 @ 05:00 PM
You should have seen in your inbox earlier today an announcement that the 2012 Assets Learning Conference website is now live (if you didn’t, you need to sign up for the CFED mailing list today!), which means you can now register for this year’s Conference. Of course, I realize you won’t just register because I told you to, so I put together an entirely subjective list of the top five reasons to register for the 2012 Assets Learning Conference today:
5. September is the perfect time of year to be in DC.
Were you to come in January, we might have 49 feet of snow. Were you to come in July it would be 105 degrees with 100% humidity. In September, highs average around 77 and lows average around 60.
4. We’re offering four Plenary Sessions & over 40 Concurrent Sessions.
That’s right – over 40 sessions! Whether you’re using housing as a platform for asset building, or if IDA programs in rural areas is more your cup of tea, there’s something for everyone. Throughout the summer, we’ll be releasing sessions and announcing the exciting speakers we have planned for the event.
3. Capitol Hill Visits are back.
Fall 2008 was the first time we brought the Conference to Washington, a decision based on the need for Conference-goers to converse with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The Hill visits have been an integral part of the ALC experience ever since, and this year will be no different.
2. Conference Institutes are the perfect opportunities to go in-depth within your subfield.
In addition to the sessions being offered (see #4 above), we’re offering four full- or half-day Conference Institutes on September 19. These Institutes offer the educational depth of a seminar, all rolled into the already unique ALC experience.
1. The ALC remains the premier gathering of the assets & opportunity field.
Which Conference brings together a larger or more cross-cutting sector of the assets & opportunity field? If you figure out the answer to that one, let me know. (In the meantime, I’m not holding my breath.) Education, networking, and the opportunity to glean best practices that you can translate into meaningful change in your work all make the ALC the go-to event of the year.
If that’s not convincing, I don’t know what is, so go to www.assetsconference.org today to register!
Aging Out of Manufactured Housing Communities?
By Rick Haughey on 04/18/2012 @ 01:00 PM
At the annual Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Congress & Expo in Las Vegas from April 10 - 12, for which ROC USA® was a platinum sponsor, manufactured housing producers, lenders, community owners and other key industry leaders convened to learn, network and develop new ideas about housing in today’s economy. The agenda featured a particularly engaging session about older adults and their desires for aging in place in manufactured housing communities.
Mike Sullivan, CEO of Lifestyle Services, Inc., discussed how representatives from assisted living facilities often report that older adults leaving manufactured housing communities are a big part of their business. Vacancy losses caused by older residents’ deaths and dependency issues create a real problem for manufactured housing community owners. Lifestyle Services, Inc. helps older Americans stay in their homes longer by providing innovative age-in-place technology solutions for assisted care.
According to Jacquie Lauder, of Aging Dimensions, studies show that older adults want to stay in their communities as they age and ultimately die in their homes, yet only two percent of older adults do so. Most are forced to move to some kind of assisted living facility or hospital due to declining health, loss of mobility, or deteriorating physical and mental function.
So, how do you keep residents healthy and provide the right amenities to allow them to age in place in their communities? Smart community owners should listen to their older residents to determine what amenities will allow them to stay in their communities as long as possible. Steven Lefler, also with Lifestyle Services Inc., shared new information with the audience about some of his company’s emerging technology—the CloseBy Network—that can enable children of aging parents to check in on their parents remotely through a variety of in-home cameras and motion detectors that can notify the children of potential problems. Older adults can also remotely report their vital signs to their doctors through this technology system.
Minimizing housing costs is another concern for aging populations on fixed incomes, and energy efficient, net-zero energy homes—those with no energy consumption and zero carbon emissions—can reduce or eliminate utility expenses altogether. Additionally, focus groups have revealed that aging adults, like many others, want to spend plenty of time with family and friends; so communities that make space available for those interactions—like playgrounds for residents with grandchildren, dog parks for those with pets, and other shared spaces—become infinitely more appealing to older adults seeking to age in place. By providing manufactured home community residents with amenities like these, community owners can ensure that their aging residents are happier, safer and healthier.
Want to learn more about aging in place in manufactured housing communities? Presenters at the Cooperative Development’s event held last month on “Helping Rural Seniors Age in Place, Build Wealth, and Preserve Community Interest” explained why cooperatively-owned manufactured home communities are an ideal environment for aging adults interested in preserving wealth and aging in place. Check out our blog post on this event. Or, take a look at this research study by Andree Tremoulet of the Institute on Aging on manufactured home communities as naturally occurring retirement communities.
Let’s Celebrate Tax Day with EITC Data
By Michelle Nguyen on 04/17/2012 @ 04:30 PM
Happy tax day, everybody! Depending on your current tax filing status, today’s tax filing deadline may fill you with relief or panic. While I’m fortunate enough to have already filed, tax day also reminds me of interesting data from the Brookings Institution about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is one of the largest and most effective wage support programs for low- and moderate-income families.
Perhaps the most well-known tax credit, the EITC supplements the earnings of working people by reducing their tax burdens, and if the EITC is greater than the amount of taxes owed, the taxpayer receives a refund. For more information on research about the EITC, see this research brief that CFED created in 2010.
The data from the Brookings Institution is fascinating and extensive, especially for organizations who are interested in providing voluntary income tax assistance (VITA) sites for their city. With a few clicks, the data can help answer questions such as:
- The percentage of total returns receiving the EITC
- The average EITC dollar amount claimed
- The percentage of Refund Anticipation Loans and Checks requested
For a list of all data in the database, see here.
Because the data drills down to geographies as granular as the zip code- and city-level, interested users can see data for their city and benchmark that against similar locales. Brookings also provides an interactive map for folks to visualize the data. And while the data is only as recent as 2008, it is recent enough to still provide some important baseline information about the EITC claims in your city.
University of Kansas Assets and Education Research Symposium
By Johanna Barrero on 04/17/2012 @ 12:30 PM
Last month the University of Kansas at Lawrence hosted the Assets and Education Research Symposium, which brought together researchers, key funders and practitioners in the asset building for children field.
The goal of the symposium was to present the latest research on assets and children’s educational outcomes. Sixteen researchers shared their findings and discussed the multiple factors affecting children’s educational attainment. From external ones such as family’s socio-economic status and asset level to psychological factors including parental educational expectations, children’s identity and sense of possibilities for their future. Following are a few highlights from some of the presentations.
The Effect of Assets on Educational Attainment
A couple of research papers showed a positive effect of access to savings vehicles (regular savings accounts and educational Individual Development Accounts, IDAs) on savings and educational outcomes for children and young adults. For instance, a ten year impact study of educational IDAs in Oklahoma presented by Michal Grinstein-Weiss from the University of North Carolina showed that participants in the study who received an IDA had an increase in educational attainment. This increase was more significant for males in the study, who were more likely to complete a college degree compared to other males in the study who did not receive an IDA.
Research by Vernon Loke from Eastern Washington University looked at families’ ability to accumulate assets over time as having a positive effect on educational outcomes for children. This has important implications for asset building programs and policies as it calls for the need to design strategies that help families save but also move up the economic ladder over time, while building a financial cushion that will allow them to cope with inevitable income fluctuations and interruptions.
Researcher William Elliot from the University of Kansas presented on the role of race and income in the cost burden of post-secondary education. His study looks at recent changes in financial aid policies that encourage moderate-income and minority students to take on more of the burden of their post-secondary education. While there is evidence that having college savings is an effective way of reducing a student’s burden, such savings are more common among higher income and non-minority students. An important recommendation from this study is the need to make more financial aid available to minority students at two and four year colleges. It also confirms the need to promote college savings among minority and low income students from an early age.
The Role of Parental Expectations and Identity
In addition to the effect of assets on educational attainment, several papers presented at the symposium looked at the role of parental and children educational expectations in shaping children’s perception of what is possible for their future.
Research by Youngmi Kim from Virginia Commonwealth University explored the impact of parental expectations and family savings as well as other indicators of financial stability on children’s educational attainment. The study revealed great disparity between parental educational expectations and children’s academic outcomes by race and ethnicity with White and Asian parents showing higher educational expectations for their children compared to African American, Native American and Hispanic parents. It also showed how economic security measured by indicators such as having health insurance coverage and other financial assets increased parental educational expectations for their children.
In addition to parental expectations, researcher Daphna Oyserman from the University of Michigan looked at children’s expectations and perception of the future as having an important effect on their educational outcomes. Socio- economic factors play a key role in how students view themselves and their possibilities for their future. They can shape a child’s identity and sense of belonging and the way they perceive the possibility and importance of pursuing a higher education. Based on their perception of what is possible and attainable for them, children gauge the difficulty of this pursuit and decide whether it is a worthwhile effort.
Many more interesting findings and ideas where shared during the symposium, all with important program and policy implications for the asset building field. The research papers will be published in a special issue of the Economics and Education Review. You can find more information on the Assets and Education Research Symposium here.
Last Minute Tax Filers Can Still be Savers
By Katherine Lucas McKay on 04/16/2012 @ 12:00 PM
Millions of workers will spend today and tomorrow doing their taxes in preparation of the April 17 filing deadline (because April 15 fell on a Sunday, the deadline has been extended). Predictably, many late filers are those who owe money. No one enjoys paying additional taxes and penalties to the IRS, but for many lower-income families it is especially difficult.
This year, the Bonds Make It Easy campaign is running a sweepstakes to take the sting out of Tax Day and encourage savings. Bonds Make It Easy is a campaign run by the D2D Fund that promotes tax-time purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds. We’ve written about the D2D Fund’s work to encourage lower-income families to save many times before and CFED is a member of the D2D-led Savings Bonds Working Group.
Bonds Make It Easy isgiving away a $300 gift card to one lucky winner who files taxes between April 11 and May 2. To enter, click the link above or visit www.bondsmakeiteasy.org and click on the “Win $300” button. Then, use the free software to prepare your taxes and buy a Savings Bond before you file. That automatically enters you in the sweepstakes.
Anyone who is receiving a refund can use the Split Refund form to buy U.S. Savings Bonds. But many people don’t realize that they can still buy bonds at tax time even if they are not receiving a refund. This is the only way consumers can still buy paper bonds; except at tax time, all U.S. Savings Bonds are now electronic. Bonds Make It Easy has more information.
If you, your friends and family, or the families you serve have procrastinated on filing taxes this year, entering the Bonds Make It Easy sweepstakes for savers might make tax time a little more fun. Celebrate getting those taxes done by saving some money!
Expanding Economic Opportunity by Offering College Funding for Veterans
By June Olsen, Guest Contributor on 04/13/2012 @ 01:30 PM
In his paper, “Education and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective,” David Mitch paraphrases the 1776 writing of Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations: “The proportion between the annual produce of a nation and the number of people who are to consume that produce depends on ‘the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which its labour is generally applied.’” This “skill, dexterity and judgment” has been re-named “labor force quality” by recent analysts of economic productivity in the United States. Studies have found that many factors influence labor force quality in the U.S., but one of the most important factors has been the years of schooling completed by the workforce. Education leads to greater economic productivity, and opportunities today are more widespread as ever with accredited online universities becoming ever more important.
But unemployment does not. GIBill.com says: “The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate for veterans who served anytime between September 2001 and the present was 10.9 percent in April of 2011, compared to 8.5 percent for the civilian population.” Before veterans can be part of any economic growth in this country, they must have jobs. The GI Bill was signed into law in 1944 so that veterans could be reintegrated into society and become part of the workforce. The first step toward that end was to provide access to education for a group of people who, at the time, at best had high school diplomas.
A high school diploma (and not a GED) are now required for recruitment into the military, and soldiers do receive on-the-job training, some of which can later be applied to civilian work. But all this is not enough for veterans to be competitive in the job market. The website Today’s GI Bill gives veterans reasons to pursue higher education: “Today, more jobs than ever require a two- or four-year college degree. More education means more choices and career opportunities. It is estimated that, by 2014, 90 percent of the fastest-growing careers will require some higher education. Every bit of education you get after high school increases the chances you’ll earn good pay.”
But if education is going to translate into economic growth, it is not enough simply to get veterans into school. Studies conducted over decades have shown that increasing the number of years of schooling does not increase economic growth unless the level of cognitive skills among the students also increases. “In other words, it is not enough simply to spend more time in school; something has to be learned there,” says educationnext.org.
Veterans face more challenges than many groups when it comes to increasing cognitive skills. For one thing, they may not be well-prepared for college, and they may lack confidence in their academic ability. Then there are the adjustment issues, such as the PTSD of one veteran described in “From the Battlefield to the Classroom,” an article about increased veteran enrollment at Georgia State: “The sudden movement of a classmate during an exam would trigger his fight or flight response. And then there were the headaches, panic attacks and sleepless nights that made studying for exams or writing papers nearly impossible.”
Georgia State and other schools have an increasing network of resources to help veteran students with everything from finances to finding a support group, thus helping them adjust, and helping them to learn and increase those cognitive skills. And schools like Lackawanna Community College make a special effort to help veterans focus their course work to get useful degrees.
Education does increase economic productivity, and helping veterans not only go to school but learn there and find jobs will increase the economic productivity of our nation.
June Olsen recently graduated with a degree in educational psychology. She currently works as a writer on all things education and is always interested in connecting with bloggers online.
National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics: Call for Papers
By Leigh Tivol on 04/13/2012 @ 10:00 AM
CONTRIBUTOR'S NOTE: I received the following Call for Papers and thought it might be useful to some of our readers. I hope you'll consider submitting your research and participating in the NAWRS Conference.
National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics and National Association of State TANF Administrators
Call for Papers and Participation: Using Research to Improve Program Effectiveness
Deadline for Submissions: April 30, 2012
The National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics (NAWRS) Annual Workshop and the National Association of State TANF Administrators (NASTA) will hold its 52nd Annual Workshop at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, August 19-22, 2012. The conference will bring together policymakers, administrators, researchers and practitioners concerned with the well-being of vulnerable populations.
Conference description: This year's joint NAWRS and NASTA conference is focused on how states and localities might generate and use research to improve program effectiveness. This year, the program committee is calling on the research and practice communities to share: (1) findings from research studies that provide evidence about what works and what doesn't in serving disadvantaged populations, (2) tools for conducting research studies that document program effectiveness, and (3) innovative or promising practice in TANF service delivery. We are interested in a broad range of public and child welfare programs including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Unemployment Insurance (UI), workforce development, foster care, community health and disability programs (SSI, SSDI).
New to the program is a Research Academy. The academy is a "hands on" workshop designed to teach state and local researchers strategies for conducting rigorous random assignment evaluations using existing data. Researchers will learn to conduct a low cost study to test program effectiveness.
Presentation Formats and Submission Requirements:
Given the partnership between NAWRS and NASTA, we are designing a program to meet the needs of both program administrators/practitioners and researchers. This year, there are four different types of submissions-(1) Research-based presentations, (2) Panel presentations, (3) Promising practice presentations, and (4) Roundtable presentations. Submissions should include the following:
Title: Title of the proposal (indicate whether the submission is a panel, single paper, promising practice presentation, or a roundtable session)
Author(s): Contact information for the presenting author and all other authors
Presentation abstracts and required text: Insert an abstract of no more than 500 words. Indicate from the following what type of presentation format you are proposing. Submission requirements vary based on type of presentation.
- Research-based presentations. Submit a proposal for a single paper presentation that summarizes results from a study. The program committee will assign the paper to the appropriate panel. Include a brief description of the paper including the purpose of the paper/study, methodology, findings, and relevance to the conference theme.
- Panel presentations. Panel sessions will include three or four topic-related research presentations (15 minutes each) and 30-45 minutes for formal discussant and audience questions. We strongly encourage you to submit a panel session.Follow the guidelines for research-based presentations submitting information for each paper. Also include a brief paragraph describing the purpose and goals of the session.
- Promising practice presentations. This year, we are encouraging state and local practitioners to submit proposals describing innovative and/or promising programs that others might learn from. For these sessions, we will assign a researcher as discussant to talk about how these programs might be evaluated. Discussions will focus on potential research design (for both impact and implementation), measurable outcomes, and other evaluation advice. For the submission, briefly describe goals of the program, core program components, outcome measures, and relevance to the field.
- Roundtable proposals. Roundtable sessions provide face to face exposure to those interested in the same projects and concepts. Roundtables can be organized for individual projects or broader topics. Roundtable proposals may fall into two categories:
- Participants wanting more information on a topic. NAWRS/NASTA is soliciting proposals indicating specific topics on roundtables that the conference planning committee might organize. For these proposals, include the roundtable topic and what you hope to learn from the session.
- Participants wanting to share expertise. Individuals may include a roundtable proposal that they are willing to organize. These proposals should include the primary topic, individuals to be included in the roundtable, and potential questions addressed. Proposals should also include the basic format of the session (e.g., thought questions with open dialogue, short presentations and discussion).
Bibliographic or reference information is not required with your abstract.
Proposals and queries should be submitted on the NAWRS proposal submission page at http://nawrs.org/proposals/. Questions about the 2012 conference should be directed to Vince Kilduff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410.767.7187. For the information on the conference, see www.nawrs.org.
Why Bank On Programs Need Financial Institutions
By Michelle Nguyen on 04/11/2012 @ 11:30 AM
Last week, CFED released a report called Partnerships You Can Bank On: Sustainable Financial Institution Engagement in Bank On Programs, which, for the first time, investigates the sustainability of Bank On programs from the perspective of the financial institution.
Before we get into what that means, let’s step back a second. To unpack that sentence, we need to know what Bank On programs are, why they are important and why financial institutions are integral to these programs.
With approximately 8% unbanked households and another 18% classified as underbanked, there are about 30 million American households that are financially underserved. (Side note: Data on the number of un- and underbanked households at the city/county/metro level can be accessed through a new online data tool at JoinBankOn.org.) Financial access initiatives aimed at connecting unbanked consumers to mainstream banking products have proliferated in recent years, and Bank On programs have become the fastest growing strategy to address concerns about the number of households operating outside the financial mainstream. These are voluntary, public/private partnerships between local or state government, financial institutions, and community-based organizations, and the goal is to provide low-income un- and underbanked people with low-cost starter or “second chance” bank accounts and access to financial education.
Bank On programs are almost primarily locally based and operated, though, in recent years, several state and regional programs have formed. While local government and nonprofits provide marketing for the campaign, offer financial education, and connect unbanked consumers to the program, participating financial institutions agree to create affordable, mainstream checking accounts for unbanked consumers in their communities. However, a key assumption underlying the Bank On model is that financial institutions can serve these consumers in a way that is sustainable to their business operations. This assumption is critical to the success and longevity of the Bank On approach.
As more municipalities and states start Bank On programs, some facets of the model that have been key to its strong local appeal – local innovation and decision-making authority – are also becoming challenges to further scale and sustainability. In particular, as the volume of requests to develop unique, customized products and data tracking reports for multiple local markets increases, and as funding requests continue to mount, it is becoming increasingly challenging for national and regional financial institutions to negotiate, coordinate and manage their participation in Bank On.
The report explains in more detail about specific challenges that financial institutions face in terms of product design and program requests, along with the value of participating in the program. To read the full report, click here.
New Lead Organizations in the Assets & Opportunity Network
By Jennifer Brooks on 04/09/2012 @ 02:30 PM
Responding to increasing interest in the Assets & Opportunity Network, CFED opened a Round II Request for Letters of Interest in February, inviting organizations in states and local areas not already served by Lead Organizations to apply to participate in the Assets & Opportunity Network in that role.
We’re excited to announce that 10 new Lead State and Local Organizations will be joining the A&O Network – five local and five state. These organizations will join the 51 other Lead State and Local Organizations in the A&O Network. To learn more about these organizations, including latest news and updates, visit the A&O Network website.
The 10 new Lead Organizations are:
New Lead State Organizations
- Indiana: The Indiana Institute for Working Families, a program of the Indiana Community Action Association
- Iowa: Iowans for Social and Economic Development
- Minnesota: Legal Services Advocacy Project
- South Carolina: South Carolina Association of Community Action Partnerships
- West Virginia: Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action, Inc.
New Lead Local Organizations
- Delaware County, PA: PathWays PA/Delaware County Asset Development Collaborative
- Eastern Idaho: Partners for Prosperity
- Kalamazoo, MI: Kalamazoo Poverty Reduction Initiative
- Philadelphia, PA: Women's Opportunities Resource Center
- San Francisco, CA: The Mission Asset Fund
In the next several months, CFED will be working with each of these organizations to build their own microsites under the Assets & Opportunity web portal to use for coalition-building, advocacy and to connect with peers.
Background on the A&O Network: The Assets & Opportunity Network is a national movement-oriented group of advocates, practitioners, policymakers, and others nationwide working to expand the reach and deepen the impact of asset-based strategies. Network members are on the frontlines of state and local policy advocacy, coalition-building and service delivery.
The purpose of this Network is to serve as both a learning community and advocacy community—to connect members to ideas, tools and people that can both enhance their capacity to effectively deliver asset-related services, as well as to enhance their capacity to advocate for policies that will bring the opportunity to learn, earn, save, invest and protect to millions more Americans.
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