Poverty Alleviation and Asset-Building for Low-Income Families

This research is funded by a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation to support applied policy analysis on topics of poverty alleviation and asset-building for low income families. The Evans School has partnered with the foundation to synthesize research and data on savings and debt, alternative financial services, unemployment benefits, and poverty with a focus on the northwest U.S. and Midwest.

Credit and Debt

This report analyzes credit and debt for low-income and low-wealth households, and the impact on the ability to accumulate wealth and increase financial security. The authors explore the relationship between income level and assets, finding that lower-income households are less likely to hold both financial and non-financial assets. However, when viewing asset holding over time, the likelihood of owning any asset has increased for lower-income households. Patterns of debt and impacts of the recent recession are also examined in this report.

Impoverished Communities

The authors construct an index of poverty and disadvantage based on four economic indicators at the county level for all eight Northwest Area Foundation states. Using these indicators, the authors are able to map varying levels of poverty and disadvantage across counties. Initial findings indicate high impoverishment rates in counties with large Native American Populations. They also compare the NWAF states to the national average for each indicator.

Alternative Financial Services Use

Alternative Financial Services (AFS) offer services to those individuals without access to traditional bank accounts or credit. They include pawnshops, payday lenders and check cashers. This report examines the findings of two recent articles on AFS. Alternative financial services are typically higher-cost and this report aims to identify who uses these services and why.

Hispanic Migration

Recent findings show Hispanic populations growing outside of the traditional southwest destination states, with the NWAF region containing a greater than average share of new destinations. This report reviews how new Hispanic destinations differ from established Hispanic destinations or non-destinations in terms of community vitality, which is measured by education, economic, poverty, inequality, and demographic indicators within a region.

Payday Lending Policy

Approximately 19 million households took out payday, or short-term, loans in 2007. Due to recent research showing that some borrowers become trapped in debt cycles from payday lending, the practice has come under increased scrutiny. This brief categorizes current regulations of payday lending, analyzes research on potential impacts of implementing fee and interest rate ceilings, and names possible alternatives to payday lending.

Unemployment Insurance Reform

This report reviews policy changes to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system, due to the Recovery Act, and evaluates outcomes in states where these policy changes took place. The authors review five policies, describing them, the NWAF states they were enacted in, and evidence of need, outcomes, and costs in these states. See figures here.