Jan 01 2003

Serving New Americans: A Strategic Opportunity for Credit Unions

There’s a powerful force exerting itself on the U.S. economy, promising tremendous opportunities for those nimble enough to recognize and respond to it. That force is a population of more than 33 million immigrants – New Americans who are reshaping our society. Numbers – the largest immigrant population in our history – are just one of the issues explored by a colloquium of immigration experts and credit union CEOs sponsored by the Filene Research Institute and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Credit Union Research; and hosted by the Center for Comparative Immi-gration Studies at University of California, San Diego.

Renowned migration expert Alejandro Portes, director of the Center for Migration and Development at Princeton University, reports that second generation immigrant youths face significant challenges as they become acculturated to American society. Portes urges business and community leaders to understand the immense differences in financial needs and resources among various immigrant groups.

Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., points out that the number of immigrants in the U.S. currently stands at 11.5% of the total population, and has risen by more than two million over the past ten years. He further states the size of the immigrant population presents big opportunities to financial institutions willing to invest the time and resources necessary to serve it. For example, about 10% of immigrants identify themselves as self-employed or entrepreneurs – essentially the same percentage as among the native born population. That presents opportunities for services such as business lending to groups currently underserved by the banking industry.