Jun 26 2006

Asset Accumulation and Economic Development in Latino Communities: A National and Border Economy Profile of Latino Families

Report  
Number  
119

Several unique factors create challenges as well as opportunities for financial-services providers, policymakers, and researchers in the Borderlands. Lessons learned here can be exported to new immigrant areas and aid in credit union growth.

Barbara J. Robles, PhD
Faculty Director, Latino Financial Issues Program
School of Social Work and Center for Community Development & Civil Rights, College of Public Programs, Arizona State University
Report Number 119

Executive Summary

Through this enormous data set, Robles discusses, for the benefit of credit unions, how Latinos in the Borderlands deal with finances and accumulate wealth. Robles examines the Borderlands because the demographics of this area are similar to other high-density Latino populations across the United States. Robles boils down some of the key attributes and behaviors of her research subjects, and discusses potential issues for credit unions to weigh as they develop strategies to serve this dynamic and growing market.

What is the research about?

During the 2003 and 2004 tax seasons, Professor Robles, her team of graduate assistants and over 65 community organizations collected information from 7,000 tax returns and conducted in-depth behavioral surveys with over 2,000 families in the Borderlands area of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Robles examines the Borderlands because the demographics of this area are similar to other high-density Latino populations across the United States.

Robles confirms certain preconceptions about Latinos in the Borderland area. Additionally, Robles’ data clarifies some of this group’s financial behaviors and needs:

  • Close to half depend on family assistance in financial emergencies
  • One-quarter send money to relatives not currently living with them
  • One-third want more information about buying a home
  • Use of tax refund anticipation (RAL) loans is wide and varied (paying medical bills, house down payment, school expenses, etc.)
  • Over one-quarter are unbanked

What are the credit union implications?

In addition to the data available in this study, Robles presents several unique ideas and opportunities for credit unions to effectively serve high-density Latino populations. Perhaps most germane is her suggestion that credit unions proactively cement relationships with community-based organizations which already have a hard-wired connection to the local Latino community. Robles contends that Latino communities trust these organizations due to their cultural responsiveness and long-term commitment to the local community.