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What are the causes of financial struggles in low-income communities?

Before think how to empower low-income citizens, the first step to take is to map the root causes of their financial struggles

Photo of André Fernandes
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Before solve a problem, it's mandatory to comprehend its root causes. Then, when thinking about to help low-income citizens empower themselves financially, the first step is to map the root causes of their financial struggles.

What are the common behaviours associated to the causes of financial problems? And how these behaviours could be changed?

In Brazil, for example, it's common middle class, and even low-income families nowadays, assume long term debts to pay a car, a house and even goods like a TV, clothes; to be paid along up to 3 or 4 years through monthly parcels (in case of houses, it's some 20 or 30 years).

The easier access to credit combined to financial illiteracy, plus high interest rates and unstable income sources, makes low-income Brazilians pay much more than the real prices and become totally in debt in case of job loss.

Considering these facts and that low-income families are also daily exposed to adverstisements and appeals to consume, how to approach consumption in low-income communities? How to work the idea of mindful consumption in low-income communities?

In a broader spectrum, it's important to observe what social sectors have influence over the root causes linked to the financial problems faced in a certain low-income community. 

Taking this perspective, how the banks and financial service providers could contribute to solve these problems? What other stakeholders could be considered to cause a positive impact on financial empowerment? Local and informal leaders are also important to be considered. 

As the cause of the financial problems are identified, how to educate the community towards financial empowerment?

As pointed out by Victoria Dzindzichashvili on the comments below, it's also valuable to consider how banks and other stakeholders like big corporations that employ mostly low-wage workers can contribute to solve these problems. Like she wrote: "Perhaps in addition to engaging in educational activities (which are also important), they can revisit their own core practices; these are often what drives the problem itself. Low-income communities form partly as a result of business practices that erode purchasing power. There is the often-cited example of Walmart and Costco, and the different labor philosophies that guide the companies. "

So based on her feedbacks, we can also consider the questions: How can banks and other stakeholders be more accountable for how their practices affect low-income communities? How can we encourage more business leaders to think like Costco and not like Walmart?

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Photo of Victoria Dzindzichashvili

Thanks so much for offering this perspective! I could not agree more that we must first take a structured, analytical approach to examining the causes of financial struggles. In the US, many of these are rooted in organizational practices by businesses (e.g. low-wage employers), as well as predatory lending practices. This is, as much as anything else, a political problem that calls for a change in the system itself.

There is still the question of how banks and other stakeholders (I'm thinking big corporations that employ mostly low-wage workers) can contribute to solve these problems. Perhaps in addition to engaging in educational activities (which are also important), they can revisit their own core practices; these are often what drives the problem itself. Low-income communities form partly as a result of business practices that erode purchasing power. There is the often-cited example of Walmart and Costco, and the different labor philosophies that guide the companies.

So to your question, I would add: How can banks and other stakeholders be more accountable for how their practices affect low-income communities? How can we encourage more business leaders to think like Costco and not like Walmart?

Photo of André Fernandes

Thanks Victoria for your comments! I added your reflection and the questions you proposed into the post.

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