Panel Paper: Adult Financial Capability: Combining Transactional Accounts and Financial Advice for Low-Income Individuals

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 9:30 AM
Schaefer (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

J. Michael Collins, University of Wisconsin

Financial decision making and access to banking services are frequently discussed in relation to low-income households on the fringe of the formal banking sector. High debt, asset tests in public programs, and family dynamics often create added barriers to savings. Yet, institutional frameworks clearly matter. Potentially even small financially-informed components of public programs may serve to improve outcomes for low-income households. In particular, access to transactional accounts in conjunction with financial counseling may be especially valuable.

This study assesses the combined impact of access to financial products and advice on the financial stability and well-being of low- and moderate-income adults. Using data from the New York City Office of Financial Empowerment, this analysis evaluates the effects of a program that connects lower-income individuals to direct deposit (via an existing account, a new safe checking account, or a prepaid card) and financial counseling on the bank account use and financial stability of individuals who participate in a transitional employment program: NYC’s Parks Opportunity Program (POP). POP is one of the country’s largest transitional employment programs.

The results of this analysis help provide an understanding of how financial counseling helps low-income individuals overcome barriers to banking. Outcomes six months after baseline include a combination of administrative and self‐reported data from NYC records, financial institution records, credit reports, and surveys. Findings are informative to the development of future programs and initiatives that facilitate financial access and improve financial well-being of underserved, low-income adult populations.