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Thrift and Thriving in AmericaCapitalism and Moral Order from the Puritans to the Present$
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Joshua Yates and James Davison Hunter

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199769063

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769063.001.0001

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Thrift in the Other America

Thrift in the Other America

(p.491) 20 Thrift in the Other America
Thrift and Thriving in America

Wilson Brissett

Oxford University Press

This chapter takes a look at thrift among low-income populations today, analyzing institutions that support and discourage thrift among the poor. Personal savings itself is institutionally arranged to be easily available to the prosperous and relatively inaccessible to the low-income worker. The sale of lottery tickets and the high-interest lending of payday loan centers, on the other hand, are available at every corner store and strip mall. In this way, government and mainstream market forces are discouraging the practice of thrift among low-income populations (often, as in the case of credit card companies, in the name of “democratization”) more forcefully than ever before. The rising tide of this “debt culture” has been countered by the growing influence of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which offer a range of services from savings accounts to mortgage lending to venture capital investing in low-income areas, and usually enjoy support from government funding and partnership with commercial financial organizations. They have popularized the notion of a “double bottom line” that measures investment success by both financial return and social impact. The overall impact of CDFIs, however, has been too small to counteract substantially the anti-thrift forces among the American poor.

Keywords:   poverty, poor Americans, thrift, low-income population, Community Development Financial Institutions, debt culture

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