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Financial capability for new Americans: lessons from early interventions with refugees

New Americans are a vital part of the United States’ communities, culture and economy; supporting full financial inclusion for refugee and immigrant families through financial capability interventions is a critical step towards ensuring their integration and success.

Drawing on data from more than 2,400 refugee households — as well as the International Rescue Committee’s resettlement and economic empowerment work in 28 U.S. cities — this report aims to inform future program models in order to create more effective and responsive approaches to building financial capability, lasting economic security for all New Americans.

Financial Capability for New Americans presents analysis which intends to:

  • Shed light on the financial dynamics of refugee households in the first years after they arrive in the U.S., to foster a better understanding of their financial needs and opportunities.
  • Share promising practices in the field of financial capability development and ways these practices can be contextualized to best serve refugee and immigrant families.
  • Examine the impact that responsive financial coaching can have on refugee economic outcomes when integrated into financial capability programming.
  • Offer learnings that can inform practitioners and researchers as they work to support full financial capability for all New Americans.

The report offers a variety of key findings, including:

  • Refugee families undergo accelerated financial change and learning during their first years in the U.S. and this period is ripe for financial capability interventions.
  • More individual financial coaching correlates with better economic outcomes for New Americans; however, a hybrid coaching model is recommended for greatest acceptance and impact among newly arrived families.
  • Delivering integrated financial education, financial coaching and access to financial products that are designed to help new Americans establish credit and build assets is a promising strategy to promote their lasting economic wellbeing.
  • Key practices for successful service delivery among New Americans include strong relationship-building between clients and coaches, intentional on-ramping into financial capability programming and a just-in-time approach to offering services when the client is ready to use them.
  • Introducing a gender-lens when designing financial capability services is necessary to ensure that women can access and reap equal benefits from these services; more research is needed in this area.

The IRC gratefully acknowledges the generous support of JPMorgan Chase, which has not only made it possible for the IRC to sustain and advance quality financial capability services for New Americans, but has also invested in the research that made this report and its learnings possible.

Available documents & links