Facing your FICO: The Democratization of Finance and the Persistence of Poverty in Boston, MA

May 10, 2017  • Posted in Member Projects  •  0 Comments

Jessa Loomis, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Kentucky

This project examines the implementation of financial literacy and capability initiatives designed to democratize financial knowledge and promote financial inclusion for low and moderate-income populations in Boston, Massachusetts. These initiatives were started after the financial crisis as a way to address concerns about consumer financial protection and household financial stability. Since that time, these initiatives have received widespread political support and are now funded and administered by an array of private, non-profit, and governmental organizations in major cities across the United States. In their everyday implementation, these programs encourage participants to pay down their debt, monitor their credit scores, avoid predatory lending services, and save and invest using mainstream financial products.

Drawing on over 14 months of qualitative research at a variety of financial literacy and capability programs in the Boston area, this project aims to understand how financial knowledge is taught and how financial values and practices are shaped in these pedagogical spaces. As part of this inquiry, I examine socially constructed notions of risk and responsibility and ask how values related to financial participation, including managing debt and building credit, are normalized in the interactions between nonprofit financial “coaches” and their clients. By foregrounding the spaces and subjects of recent efforts to ‘democratize’ finance, this research contributes new insights into ongoing debates in geography about financial inclusion and exclusion and the evolving socio-spatial relations of finance.

Twitter: @jessaloomis

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