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Access, Assets and Poverty

Date & time

Oct 11, 2007-Jul 15, 2024, 12:00-6:22 am EDT


Georgetown University Conference Hotel
3800 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC
The National Poverty Center (NPC) and the Ford Foundation, will sponsor a research conference to be held in Washington, DC, in the Fall of 2007. The program organized by Rebecca Blank and Michael Barr on behalf of the NPC, will bring together in one project a set of papers that cover a diverse set of topics relating to the financial lives of low income families.
The project will feature ten papers by leading social scientists who are experts on issues relating to saving, investment, asset accumulation, financial education and management, credit, insurance and financial services within poor communities and among poor individuals. These scholars were commissioned by the National Poverty Center to explore key aspects of asset accumulation and access to financial services among low-income families and individuals, including the policy implications of existing research and knowledge.

A major public policy conference on strategies for reducing the number of unbanked and underbanked families and promoting asset building among low-income households in the U.S. will be held on October 11-12, 2007 in Washington, D.C.

Specifically, the project is designed to:
  • To expand the depth and breadth of existing knowledge. These papers will coalesce and summarize existing research in their area and will push forward with new data, knowledge and analysis.
  • To discuss comparative policy options across these different areas. Each paper will be asked to explicitly address the policy implications of existing research and knowledge. The conference discussion will help bring together these policy ideas and can produce a new and expanded policy agenda within this area.
  • Develop specific policy recommendations to present to policymakers. The final conference will be held in Washington, D.C. to coincide with Congress's budget finalization for the fiscal year and planning for new initiatives for the following year. Dissemination efforts will also include policy-focused research briefs that we will distribute to policymakers.
High cost financial services, barriers to saving, the lack of insurance, and credit constraints may contribute to on-going poverty among families. This project is designed to help us better understand the extent to which low-income families face financial constraints that shape their behavior.

Low-income individuals often lack access to adequate financial services at a reasonable cost and with appropriate consumer protections (Caskey 1994; Barr 2004.) Without mainstream financial services, low income families face higher transfer costs and may find it more difficult to save and to plan financially for the future. Living paycheck-to-paycheck leaves them vulnerable to medical or job emergencies that may endanger their financial stability. Lack of savings undermines their ability to improve skills, become a homeowner, and build wealth. Inadequate access to financial services also diminishes the value of government income transfer programs and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Thinking cohesively about the range of financial services and wealth accumulation needs of low-income households is important because these areas are functionally related. Saving is a form of self-insurance. Insurance smoothes income and consumption, and protects savings and income against catastrophic shocks, but insurance is also a substitute for savings and so provides incentives not to save. Credit smoothes income and consumption and can provide insurance against short-term shocks, but imprudent credit can destroy asset creation. Savings are needed to access credit, and credit, in turn, can assist asset accumulation; bad credit, however, can block access to savings vehicles (e.g., bank accounts).
This event is by invitation only.
Accommodations and travel
Hotel accomodations are with the Georgetown University Conference Hotel at Georgetown University, located at 3800 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, D.C. 20057.

The NPC's room block at the conference hotel is limited to speakers only. We cannot reserve rooms for general conference participants, so we encourage you to secure your own accommodations as necessary.

Conference agenda (download pdf) 





Proposed conference papers
Thursday, October 11
 Continental breakfast
 Rebecca Blank, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and Co-director, NPC, University of Michigan

Michael Barr, Law School, University of Michigan

Melissa Pardue, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Human Services Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ASPE
 'A Demographic Portrait of Asset-holdings Among Low-Income Families and Individuals.'
John Karl Scholz, Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ananth Seshadri, Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison. View Scholz and Seshadri's presentation.

Discussant: Jeffrey Liebman, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
 'Financial Services Policy and Usage Among Low-Income Households.'
Michael Barr, Law School, University of Michigan. View Barr's presentation.

Discussant: Ngina Chiteji, Howard University Institute on Race and Wealth and Skidmore College
 'Can Innovations in Financial Services Make Them More Widely Available to Low-Income Households?'
Peter Tufano, Business School, Harvard University and Daniel Schneider, Department of Sociology, Princeton University. View Tufano and Schneider's presentation.

Discussant: Jeffrey Kling, Brookings Institution. View Kling's presentation.
 'IDAs and Asset-Building Strategies.'
Michael Sherraden, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University. View Sherraden's presentation.

Discussant: William Gale, Brookings Institution. View Gale's presentation.
 Panel Discussion: What should we be doing to expand financial services to lower-income households?

  • Steve Brobeck, Consumer Federation of America
  • Mark Willis, JPMorgan Chase
  • Patience Singleton, House Committee on Financial Services
  • Sheila Maith, Federal Reserve Board of Governors
Friday, October 12
 Continental Breakfast
 'Savings Policy & Household Decision-making in Low-Income Households.'
Sendhil Mullainathan, Department of Economics, Harvard University and Eldar Shafir, Department of Psychology, Princeton University. View Mullainathan and Shafir's presentation.

Discussant: Christopher Carroll, Department of Economics, The Johns Hopkins University. View Carroll's presentation.
 'What Can We Learn about Financial Services for Low-Income Populations from Developing Countries?'
Jonathan Morduch, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University and Daryl Collins, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University. View Collins and Morduch's presentation.

Discussant: Dean Karlan, Department of Economics, Yale University.

 'Immigrants' Access to Financial Services & Asset Accumulation.'
Anna Paulson, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Una Okonkwo Osili, Department of Economics, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. View Osili and Paulson's presentation.

Discussant: Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes, Department of Economics, San Diego State University. View Amuedo-Dorante's presentation.
 Lunch & Keynote Speaker

Sheila Bair, Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
 'Homeownership: America's Dream?'
Raphael Bostic, School of Policy, Planning and Development, University of Southern California and KwanOk Lee, School of Policy, Planning, and Development, University of Southern California. View Bostic and Lee's presentation.

Discussant: Edgar Olsen, Department of Economics, University of Virginia
 'Surveying the Risks of Credit Card Debt.'
Ronald Mann, Columbia Law School. View Mann's presentation.

Discussant: Adair Morse, University of Chicago. View Morse's presentation.
 Final discussion: Key conclusions from the conference