Can Credit Scores Determine Social Stability?

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 10.58.31 AMBy John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

What if we could solve many of our social ills here in Atlanta, and by extension, our state and the nation, with an examination of credit score data?  

The average credit score in Georgia is 644. The 2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households reveals that 36.5% of our state’s households either do not have an account at an insured financial institution, or for those that have an account, alternative financial services (nonbank) were obtained in the past 12 months—an indicator of creditworthiness and access.

Often, lists ranking American cities with the lowest average credit scores are identical to the lists ranking cities with the lowest levels of hope and the highest levels of challenges. Is this a coincidence? Or, do credit scores give us insight into a domain of life that potentially can predict riots, economic decline, crime, and wellbeing—or lack thereof—of a metropolitan area?

Such an approach could potentially increase understanding around the need for financial dignity empowerment for all Americans. It would also reveal how consumer credit mindsets, including confidence in the banking system, frame locations of depressed economic energy and social strife, as well as, conversely, where new growth and stability will come from.

Operation HOPE recently announced a new research study to explore the relationship between consumer credit scores and community wellbeing, including safety, crime, tension, economic growth, and financial literacy. HOPE posits that communities with high credit scores have lower levels of crime, fewer homicides, and fewer instances of civil unrest than communities with low credit scores. The preliminary findings of the report, entitled, “Do 700-Credit-Score Communities Riot?” will be presented at the 2017 HOPE Global Forum, that will be held in Atlanta, April 10-12.

So, do 700-credit-score communities riot? HOPE believes they do not. In an era where credit scores—a calculated metric of a person’s financial history—are used as a screening tool that expands well beyond consumer credit, HOPE foresees yet another application: a predictive tool for community instability, economic decline, and criminality.

Through the HOPE 700 Credit Score Communities initiative, the focus on raising client credit scores to 700 and bringing financial uplift to communities, is at the foundation of all HOPE Inside programming.

Credit scores tap into personal characteristics that surpass a person’s creditworthiness. Research has shown that human-capital characteristics, such as education, cognitive and non-cognitive skills (e.g. self-control and perseverance), are the same characteristics that underlie credit scores. In addition, HOPE theorizes that credit scores also indicate an individual’s level of hope for the future, and that communities that suffer a deficit of hope are unstable, stagnant, and potentially dangerous.

Credit scoring techniques are used by many industries to facilitate risk assessment. Companies use credit scores to price cell phone contracts and cable TV bills, to set interest rates for college loans, to tier premiums for car insurance, and to advise eligibility for employment. Health insurance and life insurance companies incorporate credit scores into predictive models of health and longevity. However, little is known around how credit scores affect communities in the aggregate.

Is there a future Steve Jobs locked in Vine City, or a struggling community in Hattiesburg, Mississippi? You bet there is. But in a state that is not only the poorest state in America, in the case of Mississippi, but also has the lowest overall credit score of any state in America (right around 614 on average for the entire state), and where only 2.1% of all residents of the state make $200,000 or more a year—it may be hard for hope, opportunity, role modeling (of success) and aspiration to find him or her.  

Beyond a potentially predictive model, answers to these questions could have significant implications for policy debates around community safety, economic growth, financial literacy and intervention strategies that could change the trajectory of failing cities. Can credit scores in the aggregate be a measurement of difficult-to-observe psychological traits and personal background information and thus be a predictive index with wide application? If the above hypotheses are found to be correct, financial literacy and credit counseling programs may prove to be intervention strategies that have consequences that reach far beyond positive financial behavior and improved creditworthiness.

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About Financial Inclusion

Operation HOPE, Inc., powers the broadest financial inclusion network in the country. Through strategic partnerships with organizations like SunTrust Banks, Wells Fargo, and Coca-Cola, the nonprofit is making free enterprise accessible to all by equipping youth and adults with the financial training and tools to realize their aspirations and ensure their financial wellbeing. Through its core programs, Operation HOPE has provided financial dignity and economic empowerment to over 2.6 million individuals worldwide, and $2 billion in economic activity for the disenfranchised—turning check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers. Project 5117 is the organization’s multi-year four-pronged approach to combating economic inequality that aims to improve financial literacy, increase business role models and business internships for youth, and stabilize the American dream by boosting credit scores.  The Atlanta Uplift 2020 initiative will escalate the organization’s services throughout the city to strengthen low- and middle-income families. For more information: www.OperationHOPE.org

Volunteer with HOPE Corps: http://www.operationhope.org/hopecorps

Learn more about membership levels: https://www.operationhope.org/becomeapartner

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John Hope Bryant Recognized as 2016 “Innovator of the Year” by American Banker Magazine

facebook-cover-jhb-amOperation HOPE is pleased to announce the recognition of its founder, chairman, and CEO, John Hope Bryant, as “2016 Innovator of the Year” by American Banker magazine. The award recognizes Bryant for his vision of delivering Silver Rights through Operation HOPE’s programs and network.  Most notably, the HOPE Inside model was highlighted for delivering individual and social impact while simultaneously generating business impact for Operation HOPE partners.  This Innovator of the Year award acknowledges the efforts of John Hope Bryant, Operation HOPE, every HOPE Inside financial wellbeing coach, and each early adopter partner who believed in the vision. 
READ THE ARTICLE

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200 HOPE Inside SunTrust Locations by 2020

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

On Nov. 1, valued strategic partner to Operation HOPE, SunTrust Banks, announced a historic commitment to expand HOPE Inside SunTrust from seven existing branch locations to 200 by 2020.  Continue reading

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Freedman’s Bank Legacy Continues to Advance Economic Integration

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Treasury commemorated the legacy of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company with the renaming of a building—a rare occurrence on the White House campus. Continue reading

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1,000 ‘Bank’ Branches for the Underserved

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

Take a look around—there are more check cashers and payday lenders in America than there are Starbucks! And, today, a person does not have to be poor and destitute to be targeted by the predatory lending sector. The ‘teetering class’—the 63% of Americans that say they’re unable to afford a $500 car repair or a $1,000 emergency room bill, according to a recent Money Pulse survey by Bankrate.com; people with more ‘month’ at the end of their money, are at greatest risk. Continue reading

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How the Poor can Save Capitalism

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

Today, the impact of income and wealth disparity in America manifests in all areas of our society. Poverty is different now, and the condition of poverty is spreading into the bone and marrow of this country, putting the entire capitalist and free enterprise system at risk. Continue reading

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700 Credit Score Communities Don’t Riot

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

There has never been a riot by a 700-credit-score community in American history. Only 500-credit-score communities riot. Traditionally, these have been urban, inner-city, left behind black and brown communities, but in the current political landscape we’ve seen the fabric of civility tear in 500-credit-score communities that are effectively poor, rural and white; individuals who are upset that economic progress has not trickled down to them.

Today, whether you are black, white, red, brown, or, yellow, you want to see more green—as in U.S. currency. Financial inequality is at the foundation of the current spate of upheaval in communities across the country, and by extension, around the world. In perspective, most social unrest has little to do with race, and everything to do with class. In order to truly address what’s wrong in our communities, we must first acknowledge the true nature of the battle.  

Though racial disparity in policing is a reality, some of the biggest ongoing challenges faced by people in underserved areas of our great American cities are financial illiteracy, predatory lending, and lack of opportunity. These obstacles restrict the average individual from earning a living and being an active player in the economy. Without the financial know-how and economic prospects required to build a sustainable future and successfully participate in free enterprise, people in these areas are held back and left out.

An effective approach to combating economic inequality lies in improving financial literacy for youth and adults, increasing business role models and business internships for young people, and stabilizing the American dream by boosting credit scores and creating bankable communities, empowered with financial dignity and economic opportunity.

Empowered with financial dignity, individuals have a stake in the future of their communities. They are connected to it, and to each other, for a greater purpose. They want to serve; they want to be contributors. They ask better questions and make smarter decisions. The saying, “People don’t burn what they own,” has been proven accurate time and time again.  

The collective way forward must be building up communities torn down and incapacitated by lack of equity. Through a powerful new initiative based on sustainable, transformational, community uplift at scale, Operation HOPE is packaging and distributing Project 5117 programs throughout the nation to advance financial inclusion, strengthen low- and middle-income families, and help revive the economy. Over the next four years, here in Atlanta, through Atlanta Uplift 2020, we will activate:

  • 25 new HOPE Inside locations — sponsored offices in bank branches, government facilities, and other community locations that provide free financial literacy and small business education and empowerment programs, including credit and money management support, homebuyer counseling, and entrepreneurship training.
  • 25 HOPE Business In A Box Academies — training, mentorship, and seed investment for youth entrepreneurs, grades 4-12.
  • 25 Banking on Our Future ‘Signature’ Schools — free in-school financial literacy education for students.

Young men and women in Atlanta, Ferguson, Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, and Los Angeles; in big cities and small towns throughout this nation, are smart. They are paying attention. They do want success.  They do want to work hard. They do value education. They do want to be educated. What they lack are proper role models, financial training, and real opportunities to operationalize their dreams and contribute to their communities.


About Financial Inclusion

Operation HOPE, Inc., powers the broadest financial inclusion network in the country. Through strategic partnerships with organizations like SunTrust, Wells Fargo, Hyatt Hotels, and Coca-Cola, the nonprofit is making free enterprise accessible to all by equipping youth and adults with the financial training and tools to realize their aspirations and ensure their financial wellbeing. Through its core programs, Operation HOPE has provided financial dignity and economic empowerment to over 2.6 million individuals worldwide, and $2 billion in economic activity for the disenfranchised—turning check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers. Project 5117 is the organization’s multi-year four-pronged approach to combating economic inequality that aims to improve financial literacy, increase business role models and business internships for youth, and stabilize the American dream by boosting credit scores.  The Atlanta Uplift 2020 initiative will escalate the organization’s services throughout the city to strengthen low- and middle-income families. For more information: www.OperationHOPE.org

Volunteer with HOPE Corps: http://www.operationhope.org/hopecorps

Learn more about membership levels: https://www.operationhope.org/becomeapartner

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An Economy that Works…for All

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

Some of the most profound words spoken on financial inclusion are attributable to Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He says: To live in a system of free enterprise yet not understand the rules of free enterprise, must be the very definition of slavery.

In truth, many of our underserved communities across the country are in bondage—restrained by a lack of financial know-how and economic opportunity; stifled by predatory lending and low credit scores. Modern slavery in underserved communities, including communities right here in metro Atlanta, looks something like this: a check casher, next to a payday lender, next to a rent-to-own store, next to a liquor store. These establishments prey on 500-credit score customers, of all races.

Poverty and despair are not immutable conditions, however, these social ills will continue to engulf our society if inequality in access to financial knowledge and economic prospects persist. Poverty is not financial at base, it is half low self-esteem, lack of confidence, limited belief in oneself, and poor role modeling. If you hang around 9 broke people, you’ll be the tenth. Conversely, hang around 9 tech innovators and you’ll be the tenth. There are many bright, talented young people who were simply never taught the “language of money”; essentially missing the memo on how the economy works and how they must operate in it. These young people don’t understand that the economy is built on small business, by entrepreneurs—regular individuals just like them—who make small companies big.

Engaging youth early with financial literacy and entrepreneurship training and mentoring is critical to empowering the nation’s next wave of business builders who will ignite and sustain long-term economic energy in our communities. Findings from the 2015 Gallup-HOPE Index,

an annual benchmarking survey developed by Operation HOPE, Inc. and Gallup, Inc. that measures the economic energy of American youth (grades 5 -12) reveals: students aspire to be entrepreneurial—four in 10 students (42 %) plan to start their own business; lower-income students are more entrepreneurial but have fewer resources—47 % of students residing in households with annual income of $36,000 or less said they plan to start a business; and current financial literacy education is lacking—only about half of students polled (52%) said they learn about money and banking at school.

Lack of financial literacy is a major cause of generational poverty. Understanding how to effectively handle money, credit, debt, and risk are crucial to economic survival and sustainability. A community empowered with financial dignity asks better questions, demands better products and services, is more aspirational, and is better positioned. An empowered community is a community filled with economic opportunity.

Real financial inclusion looks like individuals vested with financial knowledge; self-sufficient with the fundamentals to build their own businesses, raise their credit scores, buy homes, or simply make better decisions with the money they have. A truly inclusive economy needs all the players on the field—including those traditionally left to wait it out indefinitely on the sidelines: women, low- and moderate-income communities, young people, minorities, etc. Building an economy that works for everyone ensures that the right conversations are taking place, and more importantly, the right resources—training, empowerment and development—are being deployed to create economically stabilized communities.

Here in Atlanta, more than anywhere else, we have the collective responsibility to build on the second part of Dr. Martin Luther King’s integration dream—the integration of the dollar, under the banner of “Silver Rights”—rights to financial literacy, access to capital, and equity of opportunity, for all.


About Financial Inclusion

Operation HOPE, Inc., powers the broadest financial inclusion network in the country. Through strategic partnerships with organizations like SunTrust, Wells Fargo, Hyatt Hotels, and Coca-Cola, the nonprofit is making free enterprise accessible to all by equipping youth and adults with the financial training and tools to realize their aspirations and ensure their financial wellbeing. Through its core programs, Operation HOPE has provided financial dignity and economic empowerment to over 2.6 million individuals worldwide, and $2 billion in economic activity for the disenfranchised—turning check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers. Project 5117 is the organization’s multi-year four-pronged approach to combating economic inequality that aims to improve financial literacy, increase business role models and business internships for youth, and stabilize the American dream by boosting credit scores.  The Atlanta Uplift 2020 initiative will escalate the organization’s services throughout the city to strengthen low- and middle-income families.

Volunteer with HOPE Corps: http://www.operationhope.org/hopecorps

Learn more about membership levels: https://www.operationhope.org/becomeapartner

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