2017 Public Policy Case Competition
January 21, 2017
4th Annual Case Competition: Financial Inclusion
In aggregate terms, the United States economy has rebounded significantly since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. The Dow Jones, after reaching a crisis low of 6,594, ascended an all-time high toward the end of 2016. Statistics on monthly housing starts have consistently matched pre-crisis levels, indicating that currently more Americans are choosing to purchase a home than at any point since 2007. By most metrics, the US economy is miles away from the dark days of 2008 and 2009. For many Americans however, the US recovery never came. Wage stagnation, coupled with a lack of affordable access to credit, has hindered the economic recovery for millions of individuals and families, and consequently, economic inequality in America is widening.
One aspect of economic inequality has been gaining more attention recently is “financial exclusion.” About 7 percent of American households are “unbanked,” meaning they lack access to a bank account, while another 20 percent are considered “underbanked”—they have a bank account but may supplement it with non-traditional financial services like check cashing or payday loans. Underbanked and unbanked household tend to skew towards low income families. These households tend to rely on money orders, payday loans, pawnshops and other means of alternative financial services. While there are many valid reasons why individuals may choose to rely on these services, they can come with costs that create a cycle of dependence, hindering the ability of the consumer to get out of debt, develop a credit history, or build equity.
More government officials and philanthropists therefore are looking for new ways to foster financial inclusion and promote financial justice in the US, especially for low-income individuals.
Develop a specific government policy or program (at the local, state, or federal level) that would address economic inequality in the US by expanding access to “mainstream” forms of credit/capital or by affording opportunities to build equity (for instance, through home ownership). Beyond describing the policy or program itself, your proposal must devote some attention to defining the causes of financial exclusion that the policy/program will redress. It also must place your ideas into the context of any previous or current policies/programs that are similar in scope or design.
In addition, a successful proposal must provide an economic analysis that:
- Projects the national economic impact of the policy or program. (In other words, if your proposal focuses on a local or state initiative, you must bring it to scale at the national level.)
- Assesses the costs of implementation.
- Offers a funding model for covering those implementation costs.
- Indicates metrics of success.
- White House Blog (includes link to NEC brief)
- Treasury Financial Inclusion Forum
- Conversation with Lisa Servon, Author of The Unbanking of America
- FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households
- Forbes article: Fighting Financial Exclusion
- Students must work in teams of 3-4. Students that want to participate but do not have a team should contact Penn Wharton PPI’s front desk (email@example.com) for assistance.
- All team members must be enrolled as undergraduate or graduate students at Penn.
- Teams must REGISTER ONLINE for the competition by 11:59pm on Sunday, February 19.
- All submissions must follow University standards regarding Academic Integrity, including the proper citation of all source materials.
- All submissions must be submitted electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11:59pm on Wednesday, March 15.
- Up to five finalists will be selected. All teams will be notified of their status by 11:59pm on Tuesday, March 21. Finalists must deliver a 15-minute presentation to a panel of judges on Friday, March 31.
FORMAT FOR SUBMISSIONS
Policy proposals must be submitted as PDF documents, with the names of all team members given on a front title page. The interior pages should not contain any team member’s name. This will help us ensure anonymous judging when we review them. Proposals may be no more than 2000 words in length and may contain up to 6 exhibits.