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In this Webinar, thought leaders presented the results of their work at the forefront of financial empowerment including small business entrepreneurship, wealth creation and asset development. 

Despite decades of work and billions of dollars, millions of American families remain stuck in a cycle of poverty—often exacerbated by exclusion from mainstream financial institutions. Recent research shows that in cities such as Los Angeles, for example, $150 million in income is lost every year to check-cashing and payday loans—four times what the federal government spends per year on workforce training in the same city.

In recent years creative cities have taken bold steps to re-invent their approach to poverty reduction. Many, for instance, are changing the focus to the development of assets that create wealth and additional income for low- and middle-income families. Using this and other innovative approaches, these cities have begun the process of working proactively for the long-term financial health and stability of our country’s urban neighborhoods. As the major funder of many existing programs from Medicaid to TANF, state and federal policymakers are closely intertwined with city officials on transforming local poverty approaches.


Home page for CFED - A multi-faceted organization working at the local, state and federal levels to create economic opportunity that alleviates poverty.

Innovations in American Government program documents

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: A foundation-led initiative that seeks to build the public and political will to alleviate poverty. Sign up for a weekly e-gram, which gathers the latest news and research on poverty and economic opportunity.

Cities for Financial Empowerment. Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) brings together pioneering municipal governments from across the country that have begun to use their power and positions to advance innovative financial empowerment initiatives. Already, members have made tangible and measurable commitments to supporting financial empowerment programming in their cities, and are now joining together to both teach and learn from one another. By working with key partners in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, CFE also leverages its members’ collective power to advance the financial empowerment agenda on a state and national level.

Enabling Families to Weather Emergencies and Develop: The Role of Assets (PDF). Low-wage jobs can be unstable, leaving families struggling to cope with employment gaps and financial emergencies that can strike without warning. About four in five low-income families are "asset poor," lacking enough liquid savings to live for three months at the federal poverty level without earnings. In this essay, McKernan and Ratcliffe suggest a cluster of policies that would improve financial markets and savings opportunities for low-income families across the life cycle.  The Urban Institute. Signe-Mary McKernan and Caroline Ratcliffe. July 2008.

Banking on LA” (PDF): Being poor is hard enough; being poor and unbanked is worse. Forced to turn to payday lenders, check cashers, and other high-cost financial services, hard-working families see their income depleted and their wealth sapped. With the country’s largest unbanked population, the City is working with banks and community groups to publicize accounts, provide financial literacy classes, and create the opportunity for low-income individuals to save and accumulate for themselves and their children. Manuel Pastor. March 2009.

Neighborhood Financial Services Study” (PDF). The New York City Neighborhood Financial Services Study examines residents' attitudes and behaviors related to basic banking services, savings, and credit, and the role of financial education in two New York City neighborhoods: Jamaica, Queens and Melrose, Bronx. The purpose of the study is to understand better the banking dynamics in low-income neighborhoods to identify public and private opportunities for long-term, high-impact financial empowerment initiatives. New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Financial Empowerment. June 2008.

$aveNYC Account: Innovation in Asset Building (PDF). The research brief is an evaluation of the first-year results of the City's $aveNYC Account Program pilot, which found that, contrary to commonly held beliefs, individuals with low and very low incomes can and will save when given simple and safe banking products. New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Financial Empowerment. August 2009.

NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment: A Progress Report on the First Three Years, 2006-2009 (PDF), a comprehensive report on OFE’s progress in its first three years. In the past three years, they have conducted groundbreaking supply and demand financial consumption research; developed and implemented scale-oriented pilot programs in basic banking, savings, and counseling; developed a Citywide infrastructure of free financial education and counseling delivery; launched multiple, large-scale public education campaigns; and used the City’s power and voice to advance advocacy, policy, and regulatory enforcement aimed toward a more fair and balanced marketplace for consumers in the financial services arena.

FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households (PDF). The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) conducted the 2009 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households to address a gap in reliable data on the number of unbanked and underbanked households in the United States, and as part of its efforts to comply with a statutory mandate that requires the FDIC to conduct ongoing surveys of banks on their efforts to serve the unbanked. It is intended to inform policymakers and the industry about economic inclusion issues, and to promote the goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to basic, safe, and affordable bank services. FDIC. December 2009.

Helping Families Achieve Financial Stability Action Kit (PDF). This action kit for municipal leaders focuses on steps that city officials can take to help families avoid debt and predatory lending, save and build assets, and achieve long-term financial stability. The kit describes four key components of a comprehensive asset-building agenda: providing financial education; expanding access to savings and benefits; protecting family assets; and promoting and protecting homeownership. The kit also includes city examples, facts about families' financial stability and additional resources. National League of Cities. 

“Public Benefits: Easing Poverty and Ensuring Medical Coverage” (PDF). Arloc Sherman. 2005. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“The Effects of Government Taxes and Transfers on Income and Poverty: 2004” (PDF). Washington, DC.

“Toward a New Metropolis: The Opportunity To Rebuild America” (PDF). Arthur C. Nelson. 2005. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.

“Concentrated Poverty: A Change in Course” (PDF). Washington, DC: The Urban Institute. Mayors are already working to address the job opportunities; for instance, in March 2005, Mayor Bloomberg announced the creation of the Commission on Construction Opportunity.

Getting Ahead: Economic and Social Mobility in America. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

“Inequality, Economic Mobility, and Social Policy in America,” Gary Burtless and Ron Haskins. 2007. The Brookings Institution (forthcoming).

“The High Price of Being Poor.” Matt Fellowes. Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2006.

From Poverty, Opportunity: Putting the Market to Work for Lower Income Families (PDF). Matt Fellowes. 2006. Washington, DC:

“Tax Policies to Help Working Families in Cities” (PDF). Alan Berube, William G. Gale, and Tracy Kornblatt. 2005. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.

Community Development Banking - An active, free, ongoing e-mail discussion resource. Since 1994, this list has served community development practitioners including Credit Unions, Banks, CDCs, Loan Funds, trade associations, regulators, governments and partner non-profits.

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