‘It is expensive to be poor’


The PuLSE Institute held its first public forum Thursday July  26 to mark its inaugural Perspectives on Poverty series. The topic of the forum “Community Banking and the Future of Detroit’s Low-Income Families,” could  not be more timely at a time when so many are unbanked in the city. 

On the panel were Hank Hubbard, President and CEO of One Detroit Credit Union, Kristin Seefeldt, Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy, Tina Patterson, President and Director of Research of The PuLSE Institute.

The engaging conversation moderated by The PuLSE Institute editor-in-chief Bankole Thompson, examined the role credit unions and smaller financial organizations play in the lives of low income families, who depend on these alternatives over larger mainstream financial institutions.

Panelists described their roles and experiences in working with the unbanked and underbanked populations, which constitute over half the city of Detroit. They explained common reasons low income populations avoid banking with larger institutions and the predatory practices often marketed to them in their communities. 

In addition, they offered honest perspectives and historic analyses about discrimination in the financial industry and the larger American economy.

Notably, the panel assessed that it is not only “expensive to be poor,” but that it is also “risky to be poor,” due to unpredictable income and the inability to save for unanticipated needs that could strike at any time, particularly medical expenses.

Audience members raised candid and thought-provoking questions about their own experiences with money, debt, and credit. They also genuinely inquired about more affordable solutions and readily accessible resources to help with stabilizing their financial security.

The fascinating discussion was intimate and authentic, but also solutions-oriented. From incorporating innovative models that have worked in places around the globe, to insisting on legislative action for inclusive policies, the forum revealed that practical and realistic options exist to include the poor in the mainstream finance industry.

As such, The PuLSE Institute will continue to examine the role of community banking in lifting Detroit’s low income families out of poverty through further research and subsequent findings on how to best serve those in need of this essential financial tool.

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