MAF Insights

Our research shines a light on people’s financial journeys and strategies. We use these insights to push for legislation and systemic reform that moves us toward a more equitable financial mainstream.

Insights Series: COVID-19’s Impact on California Public College Students

SEPTEMBER 2020

In 2020, MAF provided direct cash assistance to more than 6,000 of California’s low-income public college students to help weather the COVID-19 pandemic. In groundbreaking new research, we pull back the curtain on the reality and complexities of college students’ financial lives.

Invisible Barriers: Navigating Financial Services with an ITIN

NOVEMBER 2019

In this report, we reached into our rich client dataset to understand how our clients with ITINs navigate their financial lives. We invite you to develop a deeper understanding of the barriers, implications, and innovative strategies clients have developed on their financial journeys.

Credit Where It’s Due

APRIL 2019

In Credit Where It’s Due, sociologist and public policy experts Frederick Wherry, Kristin Seefeldt, and Anthony Alvarez document MAF’s story as an innovative model of credit-building for low- and moderate-income people of color. To rectify financial inequalities, the authors propose common-sense regulations to protect consumers from abuse alongside new initiatives that provide seed capital for every child, create affordable short-term loans, and ensure that financial institutions treat low- and moderate-income clients with equal respect. By situating the successes of the Mission Asset Fund in the larger history of credit and debt, Credit Where It’s Due shows how to prioritize financial citizenship for all.

One Decade of Lending Circles

NOVEMBER 2018

We marked MAF’s 10-year anniversary by sharing 10 insights that have stood out to us from a decade of serving clients. We looked across Lending Circles, immigration and business loans, and other programs to draw key insights. These 10 data points show that clients lead complex financial lives, often leveraging diverse strategies — including Lending Circles — to achieve economic security. What follows is a story of progress, strong ties to the community, and new paths to financial empowerment.

What Wealth Inequality Means for the Newest Americans

MARCH 2017

Here’s what we know about wealth inequality in America today: It’s real, it’s huge, and it’s growing. Read more from MAF CEO José Quiñonez, as featured in the Aspen Institute’s 2017 Summit on Inequality and Opportunity.

Making the Invisible Visible: A Strategy for Inclusion

MARCH 2016

Lending Circles brings to light what’s already good in people’s lives. And within that light, participants are forging a sure path into the financial mainstream, unlocking their true economic potential every step of the way. Read MAF CEO José Quiñonez’s essay on Lending Circles, featured in MIT Press’s journal “Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization.”

Latinos in the Financial Shadows

JUNE 2015

In 2015, MAF’s CEO José Quiñonez was invited to contribute MAF’s perspective to a joint publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), with the support of the Citi Foundation. The resulting book titled What It’s Worth: Strengthening the Financial Future of Families, Communities, and the Nation, is a collection of more than 30 essays that document the financial health and stability of Americans across the country. The authors put forth promising strategies for improving economic security and mobility in low-income and underserved populations.

In MAF’s piece, “Latinos in the Financial Shadows” highlights the informal lending practices common among immigrant communities, documenting the important role they play in the lives of people operating outside the financial mainstream. It reviews MAF’s strategy for formalizing these informal financial relationships through our Lending Circles program and attests to the impact of our work.

Building Credit for the Underbanked

JUNE 2013

The first of two reports from independent evaluators at San Francisco State University studying the impact of a Lending Circle among more than 600 participants. The evaluation shows that pairing the Lending Circle program with financial education is a great model for increasing the financial capability of low-income consumers. The evaluators examined the effectiveness of our Lending Circles at building credit for low-income, underbanked individuals. Over the years, we have seen hundreds of people who have been on the margins of the financial mainstream walk through our doors looking for a way to help themselves navigate the world of finance by joining a Lending Circle. While witnessing these lives transformed by a Lending Circle has made us believers, it’s often been difficult to communicate these diverse impacts to the world. Indeed, the evaluators confirmed what we had suspected: pairing the Lending Circle program with financial education is a great model for increasing the financial capability of low-income consumers.

Replicating Lending Circles

JUNE 2013

The second of two reports from independent evaluators at San Francisco State University studying the impact of a Lending Circle among more than 600 participants. In this second report, the researchers found that the Lending Circle program has similar results with a wide range of communities and organizations, including recent Chinese immigrants offered the program though The Chinese Newcomers Service Center and the LGBT community offered the program through The SF LGBT Center, demonstrating its wide appeal. MAF’s Lending Circles program is successfully helping low-income people, particularly immigrant women, gain access to the financial mainstream by providing them with an innovative social lending product coupled with financial education. 

Credit Deserts: The absence of low-cost credit in low-income communities

FEBRUARY 2012

This report presents MAF’s Financial Facts labels as a model for communicating loan terms in a clear, transparent, and recognizable format. The time is ripe to introduce a new tool for sifting through potential hidden fees, interest rates, and other costs associated with financial products offered by lenders. Modeled on the Nutritional Facts label, the Financial Facts label makes loan features clear: total amount, number and amount of monthly payments and fees, annual percentage rate, late payments, and total cost. Just as the Nutritional Facts label offers a standardized framework for consumers to evaluate food content according to the percentage of daily recommended calorie intake, the Financial Facts label uses a percentage of the monthly debt budget to help consumers assess loan affordability.

Immigrant Financial Integration Initiative

JUNE 2010

MAF’s Immigrant Financial Integration Initiative (IFII) conducted an extensive in-depth survey to analyze the financial attitudes and behaviors of Spanish-speaking Latina/o immigrants who either live or work in San Francisco’s Mission District. This Survey Brief is part of a series that analyzes the results from 250 survey respondents and 7 focus group discussions conducted to look at how low-income immigrants integrate into the financial mainstream. The following are key findings from segmenting the survey data between “recent” and “established” immigrants.

Just the financial facts, please!

2010

This report uncovers the costs and dynamics of borrowing $1,000 in the Mission District, a historic immigrant gateway community in San Francisco. In the summer of 2010, MAF’s research team conducted an analysis of the 57 different financial service providers in the 94110 zip code. Team members visited the majority of those establishments as secret shoppers to survey and gather information about small consumer loan products offered in the neighborhood.

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