The success of today's immigrants, who come to the United States largely seeking to improve their own prospects for prosperity, depends on their access to mainstream financial institutions that can help them save money, buy homes, access credit, start businesses and otherwise build wealth.

Financial Access for Immigrants

Financial access — knowing what one's financial options are and having products and services to choose from — is closely linked to economic prosperity. The success of today's immigrants, who come to the United States largely seeking to improve their own prospects for prosperity, depends on their access to mainstream financial institutions that can help them save money, buy homes, access credit, start businesses and otherwise build wealth. As immigrant settlement has become a widespread phenomenon across the United States, more communities are concerned with the prospects for their full social and economic integration. Financial Access for Immigrants: Lessons from Diverse Perspectives presents new research on the financial practices of immigrants, describes both industry approaches to reaching the immigrant market and community innovations in moving immigrants into the financial mainstream.

Lessons from Diverse PerspectivesExecutive Summary

Center for the Study of Financial Access for Immigrants

A key measure of success for the millions of immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking economic security for themselves and their children is the extent to which they participate in the U.S. financial services market. The degree to which immigrants make use of mainstream financial services is also an important indicator of how successful we, as a society, have been in profiting from the ambition and hopes that bring many immigrants to the U.S. The mission of the Center for the Study of Financial Access for Immigrants is to remove barriers to achieving these individual and societal goals through three related activities:

  • Producing, disseminating, and encouraging research that adds to our understanding of the key determinants of the financial behavior of immigrants
  • Providing forums where bankers, policymakers, researchers, advocates and other interested parties can share ideas, best practices and innovative approaches to overcoming barriers to immigrant financial market participation
  • Documenting and publishing key findings, innovations, trends, practices, and policies that enhance financial market access for immigrants

 

Chicago Fed Research on Financial Access For Immigrants

Chicago Fed Letter

Islamic Finance in the United States: A Small but Growing Industry by Shirley Chiu, associate economist, Robin Newberger, business economist, and Anna Paulson, senior economist

Self-Employed Immigrants: An Analysis of Recent Data by Maude Toussaint-Comeau, economist

Financial Access for Immigrants: Highlights from the National Conference by Robin Newberger, business economist, Anna Paulson, senior economist, and Shirley Chiu, associate economist

Immigrant Financial Market Participation: Defining the Research Questions by Robin Newberger, research analyst, Sherrie L. W. Rhine, senior economist, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Shirley Chiu, research analyst

Changing Hispanic Demographics: Opportunities and Constraints in the Financial Market by Maude Toussaint-Comeau, economist

Remittances and the Unbanked by Elizabeth Handlin, manager, Margrethe Krontoft, associate economist, and William Testa, vice president and director of regional programs

Economic Perspectives

The Relationship Between Hispanic Residential Location and Homeownership by Maude Toussaint-Comeau and Sherrie L. W. Rhine

Small Business Finance in Two Chicago Minority Neighborhoods by Paul Huck, Sherrie L. W. Rhine, Philip Bond, and Robert Townsend

Formal and Informal Financing in a Chicago Ethnic Neighborhood by Philip Bond and Robert Townsend

Working Papers

Prospects for Immigrant-Native Wealth Assimilation: Evidence from Financial Market Participation by Una Okonkwo Osili and Anna Paulson

Individuals and Institutions: Evidence from International Migrants in the U.S. by Una Okonkwo Osili and Anna Paulson

The Occupational Assimilation of Hispanics in the U.S.: Evidence from Panel Data by Maude Toussaint-Comeau

The Importance of Check-Cashing Businesses to the Unbanked: Racial/Ethnic Differences by William H. Greene, Sherrie L.W. Rhine and Maude Toussaint-Comeau

Tenure Choice with Location Selection: The Case of Hispanic Neighborhoods in Chicago by Maude Toussaint-Comeau and Sherrie L.W. Rhine

Research on the Web

Immigrant Access View All
Asset Holding Housing & Homeownership
Benefits Immigration Policy
Business Ownership Labor Market
Cultural Integration Migration Patterns
Demographic Trends Remittance Transactions
Education Socioeconomic
Entrepreneurship Wealth
Health Welfare Reform

 

The following events focused upon the issue of Financial Access for Immigrants.

Financial Access for Immigrants: Emerging Market Opportunities

The Mark of the Quad Cities
1201 River Drive
Moline, IL
June 21, 2007

The Consumer and Community Affairs division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, together with The Latino Connection and Black Hawk College, held a conference entitled, Financial Access for Immigrants: Emerging Market Opportunities. This conference explored the experience of the many immigrants to the Quad Cities area in accessing and obtaining financial services, including: savings and checking accounts, loans, business credit, credit cards and remittance services, as well as other issues surrounding the financial access of immigrants, such as employment, housing, education and social services. The speakers for this event will be area bankers, academics, regulatory specialists, immigrant leaders and business representatives.

Into the Mainstream: As Hispanic Immigrants Flow Into the Region, How Can Banks and Communities Join Forces to Provide the Right Financial Services?

Louisville, KY
September 23, 2005

Across the nation, community-based organizations and banks were developing innovative partnerships to increase the number of Hispanic immigrants who use banking services and products. A recurrent theme throughout this summit meeting was the importance of building and maintaining trust when reaching new Hispanic immigrant customers. The event was designed for representatives of financial institutions, community-based organizations and government agencies as well as immigrant and housing advocates.

Financial Access for Immigrants: The Quad Cities Story

September 8, 2005
Moline, IL

The Consumer and Community Affairs division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago hosted a conference entitled, Financial Access for Immigrants – The Quad Cities Story. This conference, co-sponsored by The Quad City Development Group and the Bi-State Regional Planning Commission explored the experience of the many immigrants to the Quad Cities area in accessing and obtaining financial services, including: savings and checking accounts, loans, business credit, credit cards, remittance services, as well as other issues surrounding the financial access of immigrants, such as employment, housing, education and social services.

This event geared toward employers of immigrant workers, researchers and academics interested in immigrant and working-poor issues, public and private agencies serving immigrants and low income workers and CEOs, compliance, CRA and other officers of financial institutions who are involved in serving the immigrant population in the area.

Financial Access for Southeast Asian Immigrants and Refugees

Appleton, WI
December 9, 2004

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's Consumer and Community Affairs division, and the Wisconsin United Coalition of Mutual Assistance Associations co-hosted this event.

Participants gained valuable insights from experts who addressed issues and opportunities surrounding financial access for immigrants. Charles Vang was the keynote speaker and shared his experiences as a successful business owner, president of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, radio personality, and leader in the community to provide a valuable perspective regarding Hmong access to business credit.

Other forum topics included:
  • Demographic and historical background and interpretation of Wisconsin's growing Lao-Hmong immigrant and refugee population;
  • Consumer banking laws and regulations that impact immigrants;
  • A panel discussion highlighting best banking practices for reaching immigrants; and
  • Home purchase and small business loan programs targeted to immigrants.

Payments in the Americas

Atlanta, GA
October 7-8, 2004

This conference, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, focused on the burgeoning remittance market and the policy objective of facilitating electronic payments and reducing costs to consumers. Conference attendees, including policymakers, financial sector leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere, and payment system specialists, discussed experiences with automated clearinghouse (ACH) and other electronic payment media and how they could be more broadly applied.

Financial Access for Immigrants: The Local Story

Muscatine, IA
September 29, 2004

The Consumer and Community Affairs Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Diversity Service Center of Iowa sponsored a special conference that addressed issues and opportunities surrounding the financial assimilation of immigrants.

Topics discussed during the one-day conference were legal, documentation and social matters, use of the matricula card and employment and housing concerns.

The event also inlcuded a special panel of experts on various topics affecting immigrants and their ability to obtain full and fair access to the U.S. financial system. The panel featured Rosa Mendoza, The Diversity Service Center of Iowa; Marco Laviada, immigrant entrepreneur and small business owner, Muscatine, IA; Marco Adasme, New Iowan Center, Muscatine, IA; and other bankers and government officials in the Muscatine, IA area.

Visit the conference Web page for event information.

The Business of Immigrant Markets: Providing Access to Financial Services

Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2004

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas held The Business of Immigrant Markets: Providing Access to Financial Services, a conference exploring emerging ways to provide banking and community development services to immigrant populations.

The conference highlighted the latest research on the role immigrants play in the U.S. economy and identified business opportunities presented by this dynamic market. Bankers, community development professionals and academics discussed products and marketing strategies designed specifically to reach immigrant markets.
The Business of Immigrant Markets also spotlighted successful community development partnerships providing financial services, affordable housing and business development services to immigrants as well as to low- and moderate-income communities.

Financial Access for Immigrants: Exploring Best Practices

Lisle, IL
July 21, 2004

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Latin American Chamber of Commerce-Chicago hosted this forum that included topics such as:
  • Demographic background and interpretation of Illinois' growing immigrant population;
  • Social and economic participation issues confronting newly arrived immigrants;
  • A panel discussion regarding best practices for banking immigrants;
  • A panel discussion regarding documentation and identification issues confronting immigrants, including the USA PATRIOT Act;
  • Views of the Mexican government regarding Mexican nationals, remittances and the Consular Identification Card; and
  • Programs targeted to small businesses, including surety bonding.


Expanding Banking Opportunities in the Hispanic Market

Bowling Green, KY
April 28, 2004

Sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, this program informed bankers about the tools and resources available to help unbanked Hispanic immigrants enter the financial services mainstream.

Financial Access for Immigrants: Learning from Diverse Perspectives

Chicago, IL
April 15 – 16, 2004

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago hosted a timely and informative two-day conference entitled Financial Access for Immigrants: Learning from Diverse Perspectives. The conference featured new research on the most effective practices for overcoming barriers to immigrant financial market participation. The conference discussion encouraged sharing of ideas with presentation from academics and practitioners on a broad range of topics including traditional banking, housing and homeownership, entrepreneurship, small business lending, and remittances.

Conference Information

An Informed Discussion of Financial Access for Immigrants

Springfield, IL
March 12, 2004

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Consumer and Community Affairs division, and the Central Illinois Chapter, National Image, Inc. hosted "An Informed Discussion of Financial Access for Immigrants" forum in Springfield, Illinois on March 12, 2004.

Participants gained valuable insights from experts who addressed issues and opportunities surrounding financial access for immigrants.
Topics included:
  • Demographic background and interpretation of Illinois' growing immigrant population
  • Social and economic participation issues confronting newly arrived immigrants
  • Workforce development and matters facing employers of immigrants
  • A panel discussion regarding best practices for banking immigrants
  • A panel discussion regarding documentation and identification issues confronting immigrants, including the USA PATRIOT Act
  • Views of the Mexican government regarding Mexican nationals, remittances and the Consular Identification Card
  • Research evidence from international migrants in the U.S.


An Informed Discussion of Financial Access for Immigrants

Indianapolis, IN
December 17, 2003

This event was sponsored by the Consumer and Community Affairs Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and the Indiana State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (ISHCC). More...

An Informed Discussion of Financial Access for Immigrants

Milwaukee, WI
October 30, 2003

This event was held at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A panel of experts addressed issues and opportunities surrounding the financial access of immigrants. Topics included: serving the financial needs of immigrant populations, USA Patriot Act impact on immigrant issues, legal services to immigrants, documentation issues surrounding the IRS, the matricula card and financial access as a tool to stem poverty and welfare dependence.

 

The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy
Redefining the challenges facing metropolitan America and promoting innovative solutions to help communities grow in more inclusive, competitive and sustainable ways.

Center for Comparitive Immigration Studies
The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies is an interdisciplinary, multinational research and training program devoted to comparative work on international migration and refugee movements. Its primary missions are to conduct comparative (especially cross-national) and policy-oriented research, train academic researchers, students, and practitioners, and disseminate research conducted under its auspices to academics, policymakers, and NGOs through research seminars, conferences, publications, the internet, and the mass media. The Center is also committed to actively collaborating with other academic institutions, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and the local community.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, non-profit international affairs organization that furthers awareness and broadens understanding of international relations and foreign policy.

Heartland Alliance
Heartland Alliance is an anti-poverty, human rights organization that provides housing, health care and human services to improve the lives of impoverished Chicagoans.

The Institute for Latino Studies

Migration Information Sourcea project of the Migration Policy Institute
The Migration Information Source provides fresh thought, authoritative data from numerous global organizations and governments and global analysis of international migration and refugee trends. A unique, online resource, the Source offers useful tools, vital data, and essential facts on the movement of people worldwide.

Working with a team of international correspondents, we chronicle global migration movements, provide perspectives on current migration debates, and offer the tools and data from numerous global organizations and governments needed to understand migration.

The Multilateral Investment Fund
Remittances as a Development Tool Project

The National Immigration Law Center
The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is a national support center whose mission is to protect and promote the rights and opportunities of low income immigrants and their family members. NILC staff specialize in immigration law, and the employment and public benefits rights of immigrants. The Center conducts policy analysis and impact litigation and provides publications, technical advice, and trainings to a broad constituency of legal aid agencies, community groups, and pro bono attorneys.

Pew Hispanic Center
The Pew Hispanic Center's mission is to improve understanding of the diverse Hispanic population in the United States and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the nation. The Center strives to inform debate on critical issues through dissemination of its research to policymakers, business leaders, academic institutions and the media.

The Resurrection Project
The Resurrection Project is an institution-based neighborhood organization whose mission is to build relationships and challenge people to act on their faith and values to create healthy communities through education, organizing and community development.

On April 15 - 16, 2004, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago hosted a two-day conference entitled Financial Access for Immigrants: Learning from Diverse Perspectives. The conference featured new research on the most effective practices for overcoming barriers to immigrant financial market participation. The conference included presentations from academics and practitioners on a broad range of topics including traditional banking, housing and homeownership, entrepreneurship, small business lending, and remittances.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's Center for the Study of Financial Access for Immigrants and The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. The Pew Hispanic Center and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation have also provided generous support.

Attendee Information