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Author:Benton, Marques 

Discussion Paper
Overborrowing and undersaving: lessons and policy implications from research in behavioral economics
The U.S. household carries over $7,500 in uncollateralized debt and likely saves at a negative rate. There is a growing body of evidence that this borrowing and saving behavior may not, as assumed by standard economics, be the product of rational financial planning. This paper discusses insights from behavioral economics on how self-control problems could play a crucial role in determining such financial outcomes. It is important to note that self-control problems, as defined in this paper, are thought of as an issue affecting all people, not just those involved in our specific research. ; The paper reports results from a field study targeted to low-to-moderate income individuals conducted in Dorchester, MA. It links measured self-control to borrowing and savings outcomes taken from individual credit reports and survey questions respectively. We find that self-control problems are associated with higher borrowing, specifically on credit cards, and lower savings of income tax refunds. The paper discusses how policy prescriptions built around addressing self-control issues could prove helpful in improving financial outcomes.
AUTHORS: Benton, Marques; Meier, Stephan; Sprenger, Charles
DATE: 2007

Discussion Paper
Greater Springfield employment challenges: findings of employer survey and interviews
This paper presents the findings from in-depth interviews and a survey of employers in the Greater Springfield area regarding (a) employment opportunities for entry-level workers with limited skills and (b) barriers that residents of Springfield's low-income neighborhoods face in accessing these jobs. The survey and interviews indicate that entry-level jobs that do not require college are available in the Springfield area. However, even entry-level jobs require the ability to perform a variety of tasks, and many applicants lack the skills needed to perform these jobs or have work readiness problems. Lack of prior experience and the absence of referral networks limit access to these jobs for residents of Springfield's low-income neighborhoods.
AUTHORS: Plasse, David; Benton, Marques; Browne, Lynn E.; Chakrabarti, Prabal; Green, DeAnna; Kodrzycki, Yolanda; Munoz, Ana Patricia; Walker, Richard; Zhao, Bo
DATE: 2009

Discussion Paper
Jobs in Springfield, Massachusetts: understanding and remedying the causes of low resident employment rates
As part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's commitment to supporting efforts to revitalize the economy of Springfield, Massachusetts, this paper explores the causes of and potential remedies for the city's low resident employment rates. When compared to the state as a whole and to other midsize New England cities, the share of employed city residents is low, particularly for residents of downtown Springfield and its nearby neighborhoods. By analyzing the availability of jobs across Springfield's various neighborhoods and in nearby towns and cities, this paper's goal is to learn why so few Springfield residents are employed, and thus to identify policy priorities to increase employment. This study finds that solving Springfield's low resident employment rates will require a combination of new job creation, improved informational and physical access to jobs, and strengthening the citizenry's job skills.
AUTHORS: Ana Patricia Muñoz with Lynn Browne; Zhao, Bo; Kodrzycki, Yolanda; Green, DeAnna; Chakrabarti, Prabal; Walker, Richard; Benton, Marques
DATE: 2010

Discussion Paper
Towards a more prosperous Springfield, MA: what jobs exist for people without a college education?
This paper analyzes projections of Massachusetts employment opportunities by occupation to address concerns about a shortage of jobs for those who lack a college education. While occupations requiring a college degree will grow more rapidly over the period 2006-2016 than occupations that do not require college, replacement needs will ensure large numbers of job openings that do not require college. Wage levels in jobs that do not require college are generally low, however. The exceptions usually require meaningful training of another sort, such as long-term on-the-job training or courses in postsecondary schools or community college. Additionally, some individuals who demonstrate the necessary qualities achieve higher wages through promotion. The distribution of occupations in the Springfield metropolitan area is sufficiently similar to that in Massachusetts that inferences from the Massachusetts projections should be relevant to Springfield.
AUTHORS: Browne, Lynn E.; Benton, Marques; Chakrabarti, Prabal; Green, DeAnna; Kodrzycki, Yolanda; Munoz, Ana Patricia; Plasse, David; Walker, Richard; Zhao, Bo
DATE: 2009

Discussion Paper
Reinvigorating Springfield's economy: lessons from resurgent cities
As part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's commitment to supporting efforts to revitalize the economy of Springfield, Massachusetts, this paper analyzes the economic development approaches of other mid-sized manufacturing-oriented cities during the past half century. From among a comparison group of 25 municipalities that were similar to Springfield in 1960, the study identifies 10 "resurgent cities" that have made substantial progress in improving living standards for their residents, and that are recognized as vital communities in a broader sense by experts on urban economic development and policy. These case studies suggest that industry mix, demographic composition, and geographic position are not the key factors distinguishing the resurgent cities from Springfield. Instead, the most important lessons from the resurgent cities concern leadership and collaboration. Initial leadership in these cities came from a variety of key institutions and individuals. In some cases, the turnaround started with efforts on the part of the public sector, while in other cases nongovernmental institutions or private developers were at the forefront. Regardless of who initiated the turnaround, economic redevelopment efforts spanned decades and involved collaborations among numerous organizations and sectors.
AUTHORS: Ana Patricia Muñoz with Lynn Browne; Benton, Marques; Zhao, Bo; Green, DeAnna; Plasse, David; Chakrabarti, Prabal; Kodrzycki, Yolanda; Walker, Richard
DATE: 2009

Discussion Paper
Towards a more prosperous Springfield, Massachusetts: project introduction and motivation
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has committed to supporting ongoing efforts at the state and local levels to revitalize the City of Springfield, Massachusetts. Drawing upon its analytical capabilities, its experience working with community organizations and earlier research on poverty in Springfield, the Bank seeks to develop strategies that will enable Springfield residents, particularly those living in impoverished neighborhoods in and near downtown, to participate more fully in the Springfield economy and the revitalization process. The Bank?s efforts are also intended to complement the development of an economic vision for Springfield that is currently being undertaken by the civic think tank, MassINC, as well as efforts by Massachusetts and Springfield public officials and the local business community to attract jobs to the City.
AUTHORS: Browne, Lynn E.; Green, DeAnna; Benton, Marques; Chakrabarti, Prabal; Kodrzycki, Yolanda; Munoz, Ana Patricia; Plasse, David; Walker, Richard
DATE: 2009

Discussion Paper
Housing policy and poverty in Springfield
This essay considers whether housing policies may have contributed to the concentration of poverty in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts ? a question that emerged in conversations with local leaders. Springfield is not alone in having large numbers of lower income households living downtown. This pattern is common in American cities. Recent research emphasizes the role of public transportation in causing lower income households to live closer to downtown. However, spillover effects and government policies, including housing policies, have reinforced this tendency. The essay reviews federal housing policy, with a focus on Springfield. A dilemma for Springfield today is that housing and community development policies and resources tend to reflect the needs of communities with strong housing markets where preserving affordable housing is critical. In Springfield, with a much weaker housing market, these policies may perpetuate the status quo. A higher priority for Springfield is attracting a more economically diverse population.
AUTHORS: Browne, Lynn E.; Benton, Marques; Chakrabarti, Prabal; Carbonell, Sol; Green, DeAnna; Kodrzycki, Yolanda; Munoz, Ana Patricia; Steiger, Anna; Walker, Richard; Zhao, Bo
DATE: 2011

Discussion Paper
The Boston Fed study of consumer behavior and payment choice: a survey of Federal Reserve System employees
The way people pay for goods and services is changing dramatically, but little data and research on consumer behavior and payment choice are publicly available. This paper describes the results of a survey of payment behavior and attitudes taken by Federal Reserve employees in 2004. Major contributions of the survey are that it asks: 1) why payment choices are made; 2) why individual payment behavior has changed; and 3) why individual-specific payment characteristics matter for payment choice. Although the survey is not statistically representative of U.S. consumers, and thus may not provide accurate estimates of aggregate U.S. payment trends, many results are consistent with data from more representative payment surveys. For example, the data show a trend away from check-writing and toward electronic and emerging payment methods, but the choice of payment method depends on the type of payment, amount of payment, and other complex factors. Also, cost, convenience, and control over timing are the most important characteristics determining respondents' adoption and use of payment methods. We find that payment characteristics vary widely across respondents, partly because of inherent heterogeneity but perhaps also because of measurement error, misperception, or inadequate information (lack of consumer education). Cross-sectional evidence shows that respondents tend to use payment methods in a manner broadly consistent with their reported assessments of the payment characteristics.
AUTHORS: Crowe, Marianne; Blair, Krista; Schuh, Scott; Benton, Marques
DATE: 2007

Discussion Paper
Jobs in Springfield, Massachusetts: understanding and remedying the causes of low resident employment rates
As part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's commitment to supporting efforts to revitalize the economy of Springfield, Massachusetts, this paper explores the causes of and potential remedies for the city's low resident employment rates. When compared to the state as a whole and to other midsize New England cities, the share of employed city residents is low, particularly for residents of downtown Springfield and its nearby neighborhoods. By analyzing the availability of jobs across Springfield's various neighborhoods and in nearby towns and cities, this paper's goal is to learn why so few Springfield residents are employed, and thus to identify policy priorities to increase employment. This study finds that solving Springfield's low resident employment rates will require a combination of new job creation, improved informational and physical access to jobs, and strengthening the citizenry's job skills.
AUTHORS: Ana Patricia Muñoz with Lynn Browne; Kodrzycki, Yolanda; Benton, Marques; Zhao, Bo; Chakrabarti, Prabal; Walker, Richard; Green, DeAnna
DATE: 2010

Discussion Paper
Reinvigorating Springfield's economy: lessons from resurgent cities
As part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's commitment to supporting efforts to revitalize the economy of Springfield, Massachusetts, this paper analyzes the economic development approaches of other mid-sized manufacturing-oriented cities during the past half century. From among a comparison group of 25 municipalities that were similar to Springfield in 1960, the study identifies 10 "resurgent cities" that have made substantial progress in improving living standards for their residents, and that are recognized as vital communities in a broader sense by experts on urban economic development and policy. These case studies suggest that industry mix, demographic composition, and geographic position are not the key factors distinguishing the resurgent cities from Springfield. Instead, the most important lessons from the resurgent cities concern leadership and collaboration. Initial leadership in these cities came from a variety of key institutions and individuals. In some cases, the turnaround started with efforts on the part of the public sector, while in other cases nongovernmental institutions or private developers were at the forefront. Regardless of who initiated the turnaround, economic redevelopment efforts spanned decades and involved collaborations among numerous organizations and sectors.
AUTHORS: Ana Patricia Muñoz with Lynn Browne; Benton, Marques; Zhao, Bo; Walker, Richard; Chakrabarti, Prabal; Plasse, David; Green, DeAnna; Kodrzycki, Yolanda
DATE: 2009

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