Report cover "Banking on LA"

March 2009

By Manuel Pastor

Please note: reports dated earlier than June 2020 were published under our previous names: the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) or the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII).

We are pleased to announce the release of a new report from USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE). Banking on LA, a synthesis of several research efforts with a special lens applied to Los Angeles, offers a vision of how a recommitment to providing full banking services in lower-income neighborhoods could create pathways from poverty, rebuild the middle class and strengthen the region.

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. In areas like Southeast L.A., non-traditional financial services outnumber bank branches fivefold and Latinos and African Americans are significantly overrepresented in the unbanked population even within the city’s low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

Why the mismatch? On the one hand, banks often do not see the potential in low-income communities, partly because traditional methods of evaluating local markets do not fully take into account population density and informal economic activity. On the other, low-income consumers do not always see the banks, partly because branches are scarcer but also because fewer people in their social networks have banking accounts and banks do not always successfully publicize starter accounts.

Los Angeles has just formally kicked off its own Bank on LA initiative to address these issues. 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. The effort will be tracked with an extensive monitoring system to see exactly what difference it can make.

We thank the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Wallis Annenberg Fund for Leadership and Innovation, at the Liberty Hill Foundation, for providing funds for this and the other research pieces related to the Bank on LA effort.

Download the report

Read our other publications by research area

    Immigrant Integration & Racial Justice

    Our work on immigrant integration and racial justice brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public to advance immigrant integration and racial equity.

    Economic Inclusion & Climate Equity

    In the area of economic inclusion, we at ERI advance academic theory and practical applications linking economic growth, environmental quality, and civic health with bridging of racial and other gaps; produce accessible and actionable data and analysis through the data tools; and establish research partnerships to deepen and advance the dialogue, planning, and actions around racial equity, environmental justice, and the built environment.

    Social Movements & Governing Power

    ERI’s work in the area of governing power includes: conducting cross-disciplinary studies of today’s social movements, supporting learning and strategizing efforts to advance dialogues among organizers, funders, intermediaries, evaluators, and academics, and developing research-based social change frameworks and tools to inform—and be informed by—real-world, real-time efforts towards a vision of deep change.

    Publications Directory

    In 2020, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) merged to form the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI).

    The full list of publications published under our previous and current names can be found in our publications directory.

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