Many communities served by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta reflect changing demographics due to immigration patterns during the 1990s. The 2000 Census statistics bear this out. Much has been written about this phenomenon, with cultural diversity being certain to continue as time goes on.
This issue of Partners discusses some of the changes stemming from immigration, with an emphasis on community development impacts in the Sixth Federal Reserve District. The Atlanta District, representing most of the southeastern U.S., has seen a 90% increase in the number of new Hispanics between 1990 and 2000. While other areas of the country have had higher numbers of immigrants in absolute terms, large changes in percentages still can have a dramatic impact on a community.
An important starting point is to understand a community’s demographics. Fundamental to this understanding is the vital role that partnerships play in helping to address resultant critical needs such as affordable, safe, and decent housing. The alternative of homelessness or substandard housing will only cause greater problems in a community in both the short and long runs.
It goes without saying that the principles of promoting safe and decent affordable housing apply to all groups of low- and moderate-income persons. This issue of Partners features several examples of successes that community-based groups have had in Miami. Again, the key to successful community development is through productive partnerships.
Another article in this edition provides an example of a successful collaboration between rural farmworkers and a local credit union, including a program that teaches sound credit principles to the children of workers and encourages them to begin saving money. As stated in the article, the key to economic empowerment is access to financial services and financial education to make wise choices.
An essential partner in any community development endeavor is a financial institution. We discuss how immigrants who do not have a social security number or other U.S.-issued identification often have difficulty in attaining any access to basic banking services.
For Mexican immigrants, the matricula consular is a form of ID issued by the Mexican government that is becoming more-widely accepted as valid identification in the U.S. in order to obtain a starter bank account. We feature an article that explains more about what the matricula consular is and isn’t and why banks might choose to accept the cards as a valid form of ID in setting up an account.
With a bank account, a customer benefits from cost-savings compared with check cashers and wire services while, at the same time, a bank can benefit economically through growth of its customer base.
Finally, we feature an article on Georgia’s recently enacted Anti-Predatory Lending Law. While the article doesn’t relate specifically to immigrant populations, it is still a reflection on “communities in transition.” The law represents the most restrictive piece of legislation concerning predatory lending in the country, and it could likely serve as a model for other states to follow.
The intent of the law is to create positive changes for consumers without presenting undue harm on reputable lenders. The creators of the law do not envision any significant reduction in access to credit by low- and moderate-income families. But with laws and consumers in transition, only time will tell the full effects.
We hope you find these articles to be informative and thought-provoking. In 2003, we plan to re-vamp the format of the Partners newsletter to bring it more up-to-date. We’re excited about the transitions ahead for this publication, and as always, we welcome your feedback.